Opponents and supporters of a proposed $200m cement plant at Weston could get twice the normal time to make their views known.
When Holcim (New Zealand) Ltd files resource consent applications with the Waitaki District and Otago Regional Councils, the public, under the Resource Management Act, has 20 working days to make submissions.
However, Holcim’s general manager of strategy and development Paul Commons expects that could be doubled to 40 working days - an option both councils have under the Act when considering major projects.
"But it is not us that will decide that," he told about 120 people at an information evening for invited guests organised by the Rotary Club of Oamaru and Waitaki Chamber of Commerce this week.
The Weston cement plant is one of four options being investigated by Holcim to meet a growing demand for cement in New Zealand.
The others are building a new plant in the King Country, upgrading its Westport plant or importing cement.
Mr Commons said Holcim would not make a decision, expected early next year, on whether to build the Weston plant until it had resource consents and had considered the consent conditions.
Holcim expected to file between 30 and 40 consent applications soon with the district and regional councils.
Hearing of those consents was expected to take place about the middle of this year, with a decision being made two to three months later.
He said the company welcomed the "rigorous and robust" resource consent process, and repeated the assurance that Holcim would not file applications unless it was "fully confident" it could meet the environmental standards.
The resource consent process would ensure Holcim could not build the plant unless it met local regional, national and international standards.
"If we get consent and conditions we can operate under, Holcim will then consider whether to go ahead," he said.
If the Weston plant was built, the Westport plant would be closed. Some of Westport’s 132 workers would be offered jobs at Weston, expected to employ up to 120 people.
Mr Commons said it would take four to five years to build the Weston plant, and Westport would continue to operate in that time.
Another two years would be needed to demolish the Westport plant.
The average age of the Westport staff was 45 years, and Mr Commons did not expect all would want to transfer to Weston.