A new cement plant near Weston in North Otago has come a step closer with the Environment Court dismissing appeals against the consent granted for the plant by the Waitaki District Council.
The court ruling is a hurdle jumped but it’s not the end of the race. Holcim New Zealand now needs to prepare a case for its parent company which will make the decision on whether or not to build the plant.
The company was keen to build a plant on the same site in the mid 1980s but decided not to when the recession led to a downturn in building. The current recession and its impact on the need for concrete will be among the factors the company considers when it makes its decision.
I have been one of the supporters. The plant would have economic and social benefits for the district and I was reassured that the resource consent process would safeguard the environment.
One of the factors which reassured me was the number of people from Westport who opposed the consent because they wanted the company to stay there.
I couldn’t believe that a company which obviously plays such an important and positive role in the economic and social life on the West Coast would suddenly turn in to a bad corporate citizen if it moved east. Even given the difference in climate, particularly wind direction and patterns, I didn’t believe that if an old plant had operated for decades without adverse impact on the health and wellbeing of people, stock; air, soil and water there, then a new one, built with up to the minute technology; would cause problems here.