Geoff and Tracey Scurr, with son Jack (11), hope to rebuild
their Kilmog Quarry business after a ''devastating'' fight
to obtain a new consent from the Dunedin City Council.
Photo by Craig Baxter.
The Dunedin City Council's resource consent process has
been criticised by the owner of the Kilmog Quarry, north of
Dunedin, who says it ''cleaned out'' her business and put jobs
on the line.
However, council staff have defended the process, saying
''substantial'' costs were unavoidable because of the
complexity of the hearing.
Tracey Scurr's criticism came at the end of a year-long
battle for a new consent for the quarry, which ended last
month with a deal brokered after an appeal to the Environment
Mrs Scurr and husband Geoff Scurr, of Geoff Scurr Contracting
Ltd, ran the quarry and employed six staff, five of them
Mrs Scurr estimated the consent process had cost the business
close to $100,000 in direct costs, including lawyers and
consultants, over a year. She also blamed the process, and
comments by council staff, for a drop-off in business at the
quarry last year, as customers mistakenly thought it had
Delays completing the hearing had also contributed to the
final bill, which was likely to approach $200,000, she
The entire process had been ''devastating''.
''There was a point last year where I thought we were going
to have to let staff go,'' she said.
''We were cleaned out.''
The Scurrs had applied for consent to extract between
15,000cu m and 45,000cu m of rock each year from the quarry,
but council staff wanted a 15,000cu m limit, to protect
neighbours from noise, dust and other problems.
The arguments rumbled on until the council hearings committee
in August granted consent with 24 conditions, including a
30,000cu m limit.
The Scurrs appealed to the Environment Court, leading to
mediation talks and last month's ruling the restriction could
be eased, with up to 50% of unused rock extraction able to be
carried over from one year to the next.
Mrs Scurr said the last year had been ''a really worrying
time'' for her family and the business.
That was in part due to claims by council staff the quarry
had been operating outside an earlier consent, issued to a
previous owner in 1998, and meant the Scurrs were, in theory,
at risk of prosecution. Staff claimed the original consent
limited extraction to 5000cu m a year, but the Scurrs had
been taking up to 17,000cu m a year.
The consent document itself did not ''expressly stipulate''
any limit, but other documents did, staff claimed.
However, Mrs Scurr said she had tried in previous years to
obtain more information from council staff about the original
consent, and was told none existed, only for it to come to
light in mid-2011.
''Then they said we had all these restrictions put on us by
this original application, which we never knew about.''
The council appeared to have been trying to ''blame us for
the situation'', but any mention of prosecution was
''terrifying'', she said.
''We like to do things right and it was a shock to find that
out,'' she said.
There was ''no reason'' for council staff to mention a
possible prosecution, ''other than to bully us into a
process'', she believed.
The illness of hearings committee chairman Cr Colin
Weatherall part-way through the hearing - while unavoidable -
had also contributed to delays, and the council appeared to
have no back-up plan to continue the hearing without him, Mrs
Council senior planner Campbell Thomson rejected claims of
bullying, but said it was ''appropriate'' to mention the risk
of prosecution the Scurrs could face without a new consent.
The time - and cost - involved in the hearing reflected its
complexity. There was a ''fundamental conflict'' of views
between the quarry's owners and neighbours, both backed by
expert evidence, he said.
However, delays had allowed more work behind the scenes,
including a quarry management plan that helped bring the two
sides closer together by the time the hearing resumed, he
The process had taken ''longer than expected'', but council
staff had not tried to prolong the process and all parties
were kept informed, he said.
''The council always respects the interest of the applicant
when processing consents for a business, but also respects
the interests of [people] who may, or will, be adversely
affected by the operations of the business.''
Cr Weatherall said, when contacted, his health problems meant
he took ''some of the responsibility'' for the delays, but
the Scurrs could have asked for the hearing to continue
He was not aware of any such request.
Quarry neighbours wanting more input into a quarry management
plan part way through the hearing had also add to the delays,
Mrs Scurr said, despite the costs, she was ''probably too
proud'' to seek compensation involving public money, but
wanted ''things to change''.
''I want them to have more respect for a person's existing
''At the beginning I was told by one of the [council]
planners not to lose any sleep over it. Honestly, that
couldn't have been more wrong.
''I lost an incredible amount of sleep.''