The New Zealand Contractor’s Federation has weighed into the debate over Tamahere’s Porritt sand quarry, accusing the Waikato District Council of demanding “punitive and unreasonable costs”.
In July, the resource consent hearing chaired by commissioner David Hill reserved its decision on the expansion of the Hooker Rd, Tamahere quarry.
The road alterations and heavy vehicle impact fee of 17 cents per cubic metre to WDC, plus a further five cents per cubic metre to Waipa District Council, highlight a worrying trend emerging with a growing number of councils forcing unfair costs onto quarries.
“As is often the case, such additional costs hit smaller local businesses hard,” said Jeremy Sole, CEO of the NZ Contractors’ Federation.
“Many quarries are run by small operators. Neil and Linda Porritt’s quarry is not a gold mine so while WDC insists it is not imposing a fee or levy, it’s our view that this is just another example of revenue-raising. The reality is that these costs will eventually have to be passed onto contractors and trucking firms.”
He added: “The impact fee alone is excessive given the $1 million contribution already required to fund modifications to the highest impacted section of road, and particularly compared to the two or three cents per cubic metre paid at the Waikato Ngaruawahia rock quarry. The impact of quarry traffic on district roads has also been overstated.”
Mr Sole said trucking firms already pay road user charges and councils impose a roading contribution when granting permissions for subdivisions.
“No-one is trying to deny that heavy loads or more loads cause added wear and tear to roads. However, we are concerned that contractors, trucking firms, their customers and ultimately ratepayers may end up paying multiple times for their impact on roads.”
The existing rates are based on averaging out the overall maintenance costs generated by road users going about their business, said Mr Sole.
He added: “If more councils follow this trend of imposing heavy impact fees on aggregate suppliers, then the logging industry, fertiliser or dairy firms may be next.
“A clear national policy is needed on this issue. Until that happens, different councils will take different approaches, uncertainty will reign, and accusations will continue to fly that local authorities are succumbing to the temptation of revenue gathering and double dipping.”