Three images of the proposed Holcim cement plant near Weston, released by Holcim (New Zealand) Ltd, have come under immediate fire from a group opposing the development.
The Waitaki Valley Preservation Society said Holcim was continuing to cynically manipulate local people and should enter into a genuine dialogue on the adverse effects of the plant.
Holcim said the montages of the plant, one of four options being considered to meet a growing demand for cement, were a "reasonable representation" of what it would look like 15 to 20 years after being built.
They represent three viewpoints and include possible planting and landscaping.
Holcim’s general manager of strategy and development, Paul Commons, said the company had put in a significant amount of work to make sure the photo-montages gave a view people could relate to.
Modelling had shown that the plant would not be visible from either Oamaru or Weston.
The top of the 104-metre-high main stack would be 172m above sea level, which would be lower than the escarpment behind the plant site, which ranged from 173 to 185 metres above sea level.
The photomontages were based on digital photographs taken at normal eye-level (about 1.7 metres above the ground).
Enlarged to A3 size and held at arm’s length, the photo-montages gave a reasonable representation of what a person would see from the sites where the photographs were taken, Mr Commons said.
Waiareka Valley Preservation Society spokesman Rodney Jones said Holcim was placing aesthetics before pollution control in the design of the plant.
"The priority seems to be in minimizing direct visual impacts on Oamaru, rather than minimising pollution impacts," he said.
It was clear Holcim had designed the size of the smokestack to match the escarpment, and to ensure the plant was not visible from Oamaru.
"Our concern is that a 104m smokestack set below the ridge-line is not sufficient to allow proper dispersal of pollutants," Mr Jones said.
To reduce visual pollution, Holcim was compromising on pollution control and dispersal of large quantities of dust, oxides and heavy metal pollution.
Holcim needed to provide a lot more detail on the plume which would come from the stack, which would be visible from Weston and Oamaru and up to 30km away
"We need to see a more detailed image of the plant, with the plume coming out of the smokestack," he said.
Cement plants were not the pristine white design concepts shown in Holcim’s images. They were dirty, dusty, rusted industrial plants that generated significant amounts of pollution 24 hours, seven days, up to 365 days of the year.
In addition, by choosing to represent how the plant surrounds would look in 15-20 years time, Holcim was electing to downplay the immediate impact on the environment, Mr Jones said.