Water, water everywhere . . .

01/12/2018

The Ancient Mariner would feel right at home in North Otago at the moment – there’s water, water everywhere, but  Oamaru and much of the hinterland is in danger of running out any to drink.

All of Oamaru,  Weston and Enfield rural areas, Kakanui, Herbert, Hampden and Moeraki supply areas are on full water restrictions:

Oamaru and the surrounding areas are now on FULL WATER RESTRICTIONS, meaning essential water use only.

Essential water use is:

– No clothes washing

– No car cleaning

– No water use at all that is not absolutely necessary.

– Don’t use dishwashers – hand wash only

– No watering of plants etc

– Flush No 2’s only

Other helpful things to do is to make sure you have no leaks at all, get them fixed please.

If we run out of treated water, we will be forced to deliver untreated turbid water, that you will have to boil to drink.

This will likely mean schools and businesses will have to close, and it will take a long time to recover from.

We need to seriously reduce water usage for 4 days to let things recover to a manageable level.​
Image may contain: text that says "URGENT WATER RESTRICTIONS ESSENTIAL WATER USE ONLY FOR EVERONE ON THE OAMARU WATER SUPPLY Oamaru, Weston, Hampden, Herbert, Enfield, down to Moeraki for next 4 DAYS from Nov 30 Eg: 2 min shower only, No washing clothes Don't water garden, flush No 2's only, Don' use dishwasher, Fix leaks, No car washing, no filling pools etc. info here: www.waitaki.govt.nz Waitaki COUNCIL"

This is serious.

Too much rain over the last week has left the Waitaki river which supplies water for the town and outlying areas too dirty for the treatment plant to deal with.

If people don’t conserve enough water, businesses will be shut down for several days.


Holcim switching from production to imports

02/08/2013

Holcim’s focus in New Zealand is switching from producing cement to importing it:

Holcim (New Zealand) Ltd will spend more than NZD 100M over the next three years constructing an import terminal and related infrastructure that will allow it to import and distribute bulk cement for supply to the New Zealand market. The terminal, which is expected to be operational in 2 – 3 years time, will be based on similar Holcim operations throughout the world. . .

Once operational, cement imported through the new terminal will replace local production at the company’s Westport cement plant. Holcim New Zealand has signaled for some years that the Westport plant was not sustainable long term. The decision also means that the proposal for a new cement plant at Weston, near Oamaru, is on hold for the foreseeable future but Holcim will continue to maintain ownership of their land assets.

“We recognise that this decision has an impact for our staff, customers and for the Westport and Weston communities. It’s one we’ve arrived at after extensively investigating a range of cement supply options and we will be working through the implications with those who will be impacted by the move,” Jeremy Smith said. “For the current economic environment, constructing an import terminal and importing cement is simply the most appropriate decision.”

This decision will be greeted with sadness in Westport and mixed feelings in North Otago.

A vocal group opposed the proposal to build a new cement plant near Weston and they will be delighted with the decision to put the plans on hold.

But the plant would have created 120 full time, permanent jobs directly and many people were welcoming that.


Holcim’s Weston plant decision postponed again

08/10/2011

Holcim was set to build a new cement plant near Weston in North Otago in the 1980s.

Then the world went into recession and the plan was put on hold.

The company started planning again to build on the site again a few years ago and gained resource consent. But economic uncertainty around the world has led to another delay in the decision.

The plans have been dogged by controversy and strong opposition.

However, it has also had strong support.

The plant would provide around 120 full time permanent jobs which would bring economic and social benefits to the district while strict consent conditions would ensure the safeguarding of the environment.

The plant would replace Holcim’s plant at Westport where the loss of jobs and business for the port would be difficult for the town.

Even if the decision isn’t made to build the new plant next year, it is likely it will be built eventually as the Westport site is running low of raw materials while there are plentiful supplies of lime and coal near the Weston site.


Tourists good, cement bad?

20/08/2011

Holcim began investigating building a cement plant in North Otago’s Waiareka Valley nearly 30 years ago but pulled back after the 1987 share market crash.

The company returned for further investigations and plans a few years ago. This time it got consent and the New Zealand  division put a proposal to the international board in Switzerland, but still we wait for a decision:

Oamaru leaders have been expecting a final decision this week at Holcim’s international board meeting in Switzerland.

Holcim New Zealand says the meeting did review the project, but did not make any final decisions.

The $400 million plant would employ about 120 people. That would make a significant economic and social contribution to North Otago and strict conditions on the building and operation would safeguard the environment.

In spite of that the plans have engendered vigorous opposition and among the arguments against the development were that it would threaten tourism.

We passed a cement plant while driving through a national park near Banff in the Rocky Mountains last month . We didn’t know it was there until we were almost upon it and it didn’t appear to be having a negative impact on tourism.

Those opposing the plant also argued that tourism would be better for the economy and environment than a cement plant.

I wonder how many tourists it would take to generate 120 fulltime jobs and what impact transporting, accommodating and feeding them would have on the environment?


Our rain gauge overfloweth

25/05/2010

Our rain gauge holds only 25 mls.

My farmer tipped out 20 early yesterday evening and it was overflowing first thing this morning.

At Five Forks just over the hill  and Totara about 10 kilometres as the crow flies, they’ve had 80 mls. Glencoe on the eastern edge of the Kakanui Range, above Waianakarua, has had 100 mls and  there’s been 120 at Weston which is about half way between Oamaru and home.

The Kakanui River is rising at a rate of about 45 mls  mms an hour.

Recent rainfall softened the ground so a lot has soaked in but we’re starting to get run off. The radio is broadcasting advice for country people to stay at home and State Highway 1 is closed at Deborah.

I don’t need to use that stretch of road but there are a few spots between here and town which flood.

I’m supposed to be MCing the Enterprising Rural Women Award presentations at the Rural Women NZ annual conference in Oamaru this evening.  I’ll make a reconnaissance  this afternoon to see if the roads are passable. If they are I’ll take  the precaution of packing a toothbrush and change of clothes with me in case I get there then find I can’t get home again.

Not wanting this to be seen as a sign of ingratitude, I’ll declare the drought over and be grateful that we will now be set up for good spring growth.


Holcim wins Environment Court decision

17/08/2009

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.


Otago manufacturering shrinking most

17/04/2009

Summit Woolspinners, one of Oamaru’s largest employers, is moving to a nine day fortnight in an effort to safeguard jobs in the face of declining orders for carpet yarn.

The March manufacturing index shows they’re not the only Otago manufacturer facing tough times.

Otago-Southland manufacturers are suffering the worst of any in the country by a wide margin, according to the latest BNZ-Business New Zealand performance of manufacturing index (PMI).

The Otago-Southland index slipped to 37.6 points in March – its lowest recorded reading.

A reading above 50 shows manufacturing activity is expanding and below 50 shows a contraction.

In March last year, the regional index was 46.3.

Nationwide, the index indicated some ongoing problems in the country’s manufacturing sector.

The seasonally adjusted national PMI increased 1.8 points in March from February to 40.7, but it is still the third lowest since the survey began.

Meanwhile, the consent process grinds on  for Holicm NZ which has applied to build a $400 million cement plant near Weston.

If it goes ahead the plant would provide about 120 fulltime jobs.


Consent Appeal Off Track

08/07/2008

While debate rages over KiwiRail nationwide, North Otago has a local argument over whether a disused line should be re-opened to allow trains to run at all.

A branch line used to run from the limeworks on the outskirts of Weston to Oamaru. It was closed in 1997 and the lines were lifted a couple of years later but its owner, then NZ Railways, retained ownership in case it was needed for a cement plant.

However, when the Waitaki district plan was reviewed in 1993 the designation wasn’t properly recorded. OnTrack now needs it redesignated because it’s the best means of transport for Holcim NZ  if its plans for a new cement plant in the Waiareka Valley come to fruition.

The new plant would be a $400m investment for Holcim but its plans have not been greeted with universal enthusiasm and the Waiareka Valley Preservation Society  was set up to oppose the proposal.

Resource consent was granted in February but both Holcim and the WVPS have lodged appeals – the former over some of the conditions, that latter over the approval.

OnTrack’s application to redesignate the line came in the middle of all this and the WVPS submitted against it. Independent commissioner Allan Cubitt recommended that approval be given and because OnTrack is a requiring authority under the Resource Management Act it makes the final decision. Not surprisingly it accepted the commissioner’s recommendation but now the WVPS, which submitted against the application, is appealing that consent too. Their appeal will be considered with the others on Holcim’s proposal in the Environment Court.

We farm next to the site for Holcim’s plant and another of our properties neighbours the company’s sand pit, which will be used if the cement works go ahead. 

I submitted in support of Holcim’s proposal at the resource consent hearings. I’ll cover the details in a future blog, but the short argument is that there would be substantial economic and social benefits for the district if the cement works go ahead; and RMA conditions will safeguard the environment.

As for the railway line, I crossed it several times a week when it was open before and can’t recall any problems then. People who have built beside the rail corridor since the track closed will have concerns; but once they get used to them they’ll hardly notice a few trains a day – and they will not run at night.

I think the WVPS objections have more to do with the society’s opposition to Holcim than the reopening of the railway line. And that’s one of the frustrations with the RMA – it allows people objecting to one thing to object to another in the hope of stopping the first.


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