Port dredging deposits court battle avoided

An Environment Court battle over Port Otago's proposal to continue depositing dredging material at Aramoana, Heyward Point and Shelley Beach has been avoided.

Independent commissioners granted the port three-year consents for deposit-ing material in July after a hearing earlier this year in which the Surfbreak Protection Society was the main submitter against the application.

The society then appealed the decision to the Environment Court saying it failed to properly consider relevant policies of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement which protected surf breaks of national significance, including the Spit and Murdering Beach.

Port Otago chief executive Geoff Plunket said court-ordered mediation this month was very productive with both parties coming to a consensus on consent conditions.

The society would be part of a working party which had input into a work programme over the next three years to ensure depositing material did not have any environmental impact, particularly on surf breaks.

Society president Paul Shanks said although near-shore disposal had occurred since the mid-1980s at the Spit, and since early last century at the deeper Heyward site, there were concerns and anecdotal evidence that both disposal sites had negative impacts on the two nationally significant surfing breaks of Aramoana and Whareakeake. Society scientist Dr Shaw Mead was satisfied there was now a baseline from which to observe the quality of surfing at these breaks.

''If you haven't quantified the quality of the surfing waves at the breaks, how do you know if it has changed, how do you set limits and trigger values to address impacts, and if you do measure a change, how do you link it back to the activity?''

Mr Shanks said the monitoring plan agreed to by the society and Port Otago would address those concerns''It was always evident that Port Otago genuinely wanted to avoid adverse effects on the surf breaks; it was just a matter of defining the correct methodology.''

The agreement was a significant template to measure other surf breaks of national significance in the coastal policy statement such as the Whangamata Bar.

Port Otago received consents to dredge the harbour channel and deposit material at an off-shore site as part of its Next Generation Plan in 2011. It was also appealed but it went to an Environment Court hearing before being settled.

- rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz


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