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JUN 13

Where there’s muck there’s brass

Since the opinion piece “Mobile NIMBYs was printed, we have received a number of comments, both for and against our position. Here I would like to address some of these and hopefully move the discussion forward.

There was the comment, why don’t such industries just move somewhere else, like Rolleston?

Woolston has long been zoned industrial and provided with the robust infrastructure, trade waste, transport and electricity to cope with industrial activity. The infrastructure does not exist elsewhere. What of the NIMBYs in Rolleston or elsewhere? What of their “we were here first” argument?

Another comment back was that in the example of Gelita; they had breached their own resource consent on occasions, with excessive smell.

This is true, in the nature of primary processing activities, due to unfortunate circumstances (earthquake damage, snow fall damage and associated insurance complications) can lead to a breach of consents, and clearly mistakes are also made from time to time. A technical breach that is not observed or is tolerated is not a breach in any pragmatic interpretation of a consent breach. If the pre-existing zones had been more strictly enforced, reverse sensitivity would not be an issue. Mixed use is fine provided new entrants appreciate and recognise what exists must be tolerated, without such tolerance mixed use should not be consented. It seems obvious but surely what is considered acceptable in an industrial area is very different to what is acceptable in a residential area.

A related comment made the point that many Christchurch residents have recently been forced to purchase new heating for their homes, as open fires and some types of log burner could not be used under ECAN air quality restrictions. If residents must comply like this, why shouldn’t Gelita comply with changes?

The short answer is they do. The airshed is shared by all and has only so much capacity, domestic and vehicle emissions account for over 80% of the airshed load. Gelita since 2006 has introduced new boilers, process heat recovery improved boiler efficiency and environmental performance spending over $1,000,000 on these upgrades. We all need to reduce airshed emissions. We all have to cut our environmental footprint and most of us need a job.

Another comments suggested times were changing, leaving no place in this day and age for smelly old industries.

Is it really wise to threaten successful, exporters who process New Zealand’s primary product stream and support many jobs in our community? Probably those employed would have a view on this. More generally this kind of thinking is common in what we call the “post industrial fantasy”, where it is believed that a modern economy can and will inevitably lose its manufacturing sector and rely on modern service jobs. But recent times have proven this not to be true, as countries such as Germany and Switzerland who value and protect their manufacturing sectors, have done much better than those who believe the myth that services will provide. Although such primary processing industries, as those in Woolston, can have some negative effects, they are a vital part of our economy. Driving them away will have negative effects on our economy, community and environment.

One of the comments that came back was; why talk about Heathrow? I thought this was a good distant example that might be devoid of emotion on how reverse sensitivity can work and the effect it can have on long established activity. Another example might have been the speedway at Weston Springs in Auckland as pressure from residents force closure on a long established raceway; an obvious issue when people decided to buy a house within earshot. Other examples include Meadow Mushrooms, whose Waikato sites were forced to close and problems around our own Ruapuna circuit.

One question was posed as a letter in the Press – Why deny locals in this area access to local entertainment and shops?

While it can’t be denied that having new shops would be a benefit for the locals, if we look past parking and traffic noise issues – but changing an industrial area into a mixed use area inherently risks reverse sensitivity. Those moving in should be fully aware of what activities are long established in the area, and recognise that tolerance will be necessary. The number of jobs provided should also be considered; is it wise to trade hundreds of primary processing jobs for far, far fewer jobs in retail and hospitality developments?

Finally, some of the comments were directly at me, one person referred to me as a “Spin doctor” and a “19th century mill owner”, who should get up with the times.

My answer to this is I believe protecting industry is important for the benefit of the whole community. Primary processing, such as Gelita have some side effects, but the benefit it brings through jobs, economic activity and value of processing material in the primary process stream that would otherwise go to landfill is undeniable. If zoning is correctly put in place and implemented, these industries can continue to operate and provide badly needed employment in Christchurch.

Their benefit to Christchurch should not be dismissed just because they are viewed as “dirty”. I am reminded of a comment from the 18th century industrial revolution – “where there’s muck there’s brass”.

tags: nimby, reverse sensitivty, christchurch, woolston, manufacturing, industry
I am sorry but this comment section has been disabled due to spam. My contact details are easy to find, please contact me if you want to comment or discuss anything on this blog.