Protection challenge by Plaman

Would-be Middlemarch diatomite miner Plaman Resources has sought to join an Environment Court action, scrutinising an application for the protection of outstanding natural landscapes around Dunedin.

The Preservation Coalition Trust has applied to the Environment Court in Christchurch in an appeal against several aspects of the Dunedin City Council's proposed second generation district plan.

Plaman owns a diatomite mine on Moonlight Road near Middlemarch and wants to purchase a neighbouring farm, Foulden Hill, from which the mine was subdivided many years ago.

Australian-owned Plaman is awaiting a decision from the Overseas Investment Office on whether it gets clearance to buy the farm.

Separately, scientists and environmentalists are pushing to have the fossil-laden Foulden Maar site saved from mining, increasing their pressure on the Dunedin City Council to act; with a full vote on the council's stance expected to be taken today.

From the Preservation Coalition application, its geographical boundaries of interest are strictly within the wider Dunedin city environs; encompassing Dunedin north through Signal Hill and Mt Cargill to Blueskin Bay, then following the coast south back to the upper harbour, plus most of the Otago Peninsula, bordered by the suburb of Shiel Hill.

Much of the Preservation Coalition's concerns are ''outstanding natural landscapes'' and ''outstanding natural features''.

On January 31 this year, Plaman's lawyers Chapman Tripp filed a notice to the Environment Court, a copy of which has been obtained by the ODT, where Plaman seeks ''to be party to the proceedings''.

While the trust's areas of interest are not near Middlemarch, Plaman's application said provisions in the second generation plan ''may inappropriately impact'' on Plaman's ability to develop and operate the Moonlight Rd mine.

Plaman's representatives in New Zealand and Australia were emailed with a request for comment about proceedings yesterday, but had not responded by deadline last night.

Plaman opposed what the trust sought for six reasons, including it neither promoted sustainable management or development of natural and physical resources, nor enabled communities to provide for their social and economic wellbeing.

''The specific reasons for Plaman's opposition to the relief sought include that the [The Preservation Coalition] trust's notice of appeal is broad-ranging and seeks extensive relief for the protection of outstanding natural landscapes and other landscape values,'' Plaman said in its application.

Plaman offered to participate in any future mediation, its lawyer said. No date had been set for an Environment Court hearing, with all appeals initially directed to mediation.

simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

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