Holcim’s $300m cement plant cannot be built near Weston unless the Waiareka-Weston branch rail line is reopened, the Waiareka Valley Preservation Society said yesterday.
If OnTrack did not designate the 4.6km railway line, closed in 1997, with the tracks lifted in 1999, to rail bulk cement to the port of Timaru, then Holcim (New Zealand) Ltd could not construct and operate the plant, the society’s legal counsel, Dr Joan Forret, told a Waitaki District Council hearing yesterday.
Independent commissioner Allan Cubitt is considering a notice from NZ Railways Ltd (OnTrack) to designate the branch line, which was not carried over when the Waitaki district plan was reviewed in 1993.
At the start of the hearing, Mr Cubitt warned submitters to focus on issues related to reopening the branch line, not the cement plant, which had been granted resource consents by the Otago Regional and Waitaki District Councils, now appealed to the Environment Court.
However, Dr Forret said the cumulative environmental effects of the cement plant and reopening the railway line must be considered, because the cement plant could not proceed without the branch line designation.
Two conditions in the councils’ resource consents stipulated the plant could not be built and operated until the designation was in place and all bulk cement had to be transported by rail to a port.
If the branch line was not reopened, Holcim could not use trucks to transport bulk cement.
"Without rail, there can be no cement plant," she said.