Commissioners to hear quarry bid

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Waikato District Council has appointed two commissioners to hear the application for the controversial sand quarrying proposal in Tamahere.

Councillor Rod Wise criticised the arrangement as a poor method of work on two counts at this week’s council meeting, reported the Waikato Times.

Titoki Sands wants to build a 40-hectare sand quarry on the former Sunfruit Orchards site, on the corner of State Highway 1 and Tauwhare Rd, and hundreds of objections are expected.

Because there is a possibility of the Waikato District Council entering into a cost-sharing arrangement with Titoki Sands over construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Woodcock and Tauwhare Rds, the council deemed it prudent to have independent commissioners acting for the council on the panel that will decide the application.

But Mr Wise, the council’s hearings committee chairman, was disturbed the council had entered into discussions with the applicant about the roundabout in advance of a hearing.

He said there was an obligation for the council to be seen to be treating everyone equally and fairly.

“To pre-determine the council would be a contributor to a part of an application’s infrastructure is premature and not the way to go,” he said. “Beware this doesn’t arise in future.”

The council resolved to appoint experienced commissioners Michael Savage and David Hill who presided together on Wel Networks’ Te Uku wind farm application.

Mr Wise also wondered aloud if this was the best arrangement for considering the views of all parties.

He said he had solicited much independent advice recently on how such applications should best be managed by territorial authorities.

“The consensus was a chairman who is independent and two of the (council’s) hearings committee members was the way to go,” he said.

Nobody spoke in reply, or defended the council’s approach on either point, in the wake of Mr Wise’s comments.

The hearing is likely to take place in October or November, and to take at least a week.

Meanwhile, village residents’ group Community and Environment Tamahere which believes the quarry proposal fails to acknowledge community impact said Titoki’s lawyers had threatened legal action if it published misleading and inaccurate information on the quarry.

But the group’s position is that every fact it has published has come from Titoki’s own submission.

Community and Environment Tamahere is asking residents to contribute $50-100 to help fight the application.

Titoki has invited the group to discuss issues and concerns, but this offer has so far been declined.

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