Cement proposal denounced, New Zealand

Cement proposal denounced, New Zealand
Published: 12 January 2007

The group opposing a $200m Holcim New Zealand cement plant near Oamaru has stepped up its campaign, releasing a series of information brochures. 
 
The Waiareka Valley Preservation Society says it will be fully represented at resource consent hearings and has engaged a legal team. 
 
Society chairman Dr Peter Rodwell said the group did not believe the claims from some that a majority were in favour of the project at Weston, about 5km north- west of the Oamaru town centre. 
 
"Rather, we believe that there is a majority who do not yet have enough information to make an informed decision. 
 
"Our aim in releasing information sheets is to provide more detailed and balanced information than has been provided so far." 
 
He said the gathering of information had been hindered by "Holcim’s failure to provide the society with the basic emission data we requested a month ago". 
 
Rodwell said the plant’s emissions were likely to exceed new World Health Organisation guidelines. 
 
But Holcim’s manager of strategy and development, Paul Commons, said the final air report was only weeks away. 
 
He said the report would answer concerns raised by the society, and that Holcim welcomed the scrutiny, which would ensure a better process was followed. 
 
Holcim was adamant it would not proceed with its application unless it met all relevant standards, Commons said. 
 
Rodwell said the society would issue regular newsletters. 
 
Yesterday’s newsletter claimed the plant would probably exceed emission guidelines, threaten tourism by turning the valley into an industrial corridor and affect Oamaru’s historic buildings. 
 
"Holcim has downplayed the risk of acid rain, but Oamaru is a uniquely sensitive receiving area for acid rain," the society said. 
 
But Holcim, in answer to questions raised last month by the society, said it had checked to ensure Oamaru’s limestone buildings would be safeguarded. 
 
It said rain in New Zealand had a pH level of between 4.8 and 6, and Oamaru’s level was 5.5.
 
Holcim said that based on available data, the maximum change to the pH as a result of a plant at Weston would be to lower it from 5.5 to 5.47, causing no measurable change in surface erosion. 
 
The company said it was committed to operating within all air quality requirements set by the Otago Regional Council and also to national standards. 
 
The society said Holcim had made much of the fact the plant, if it went ahead, would create 100 direct jobs and related jobs, but that was a one-off gain. 
 
"Over the long run, what matters more is the employment that will be created from ongoing growth. In Oamaru’s case this growth is now coming from industries such as tourism, wildlife and eco-tourism," the society said, urging people to make submissions to the resource consent hearing. 
 
Holcim is investigating options to meet domestic demand for cement. These include upgrading its plant at Cape Foulwind, near Westport, or building a new plant at Weston. 
 
Resource consent applications for the Weston proposal are expected to be filed in the next few months, but no decision on what will or will not be built is expected before 2008.