Saddle Hill quarry 'contract' denied

Colin Weatherall
Colin Weatherall
A Dunedin MP's concerns a company has won "a contract to take the top off"' Saddle Hill are wrong, a city councillor says.

But the claims, from Dunedin South Labour MP Clare Curran, have renewed tensions surrounding the quarry.

The quarry owner's representative, Kim Taylor, yesterday labelled opponents "a couple of stirrers", and said there was no public interest in its work.

Clare Curran
Clare Curran
He refused to allow the Otago Daily Times on to the site to photograph what was happening there, and would not provide details, saying he had been misrepresented in the past.

The situation follows a press release from Ms Curran which referred to "reports that a contract has been awarded to allow increased quarrying activity on Saddle Hill".

She said someone needed to deal with the situation, as an Environment Court mediation process under way was not working.

But Dunedin city councillor Colin Weatherall, who is heading the mediation process for the council, said there was no such contract, and Ms Curran had not even called him to see if that was the case before putting out her press release.

Because of the quarry's location on the prominent landmark, quarrying has attracted attention since the removal of material began in the 1950s.

Concern had regularly been raised by locals and, in March this year, a group including organiser Les Cleveland gathered hundreds of signatures to help save Saddle Hill from what they believed was destructive quarrying.

Council staff began investigating quarrying activities on the hill last year, and quarry owner Calvin Fisher was asked by the council to provide evidence to support his belief he could continue quarrying in the protected landscape conservation area.

In August this year, the council said it had reached an agreement with Mr Fisher over what quarrying would take place while mediation was under way.

But Ms Curran said she had received calls last week to alert her to a company having been awarded a contract for increased quarrying.

The need to protect the land form was "becoming increasingly urgent", she said.

"This is despite months of mediation in the Environment Court, a process which appears to have achieved nothing.

"Mediation obviously isn't working.

"It's time for the buck-passing to stop and for the Dunedin City Council, the Environment Court and the Environment Minister [Nick Smith] to step in to prevent further destruction."

Mr Cleveland yesterday said while he was not certain of what was happening at the quarry, he was concerned about the appearance of a machine that appeared "far too big" for the usual work that was done at the quarry.

He wanted local councils to investigate.

Asked about Ms Curran's suggestions of a contract, Cr Weatherall said he, too, had heard the rumour from three or four sources.

It appeared to involve a Roxburgh company that had a bulldozer at the site, and the rumour was that a company had been given "a contract to take the top off the hill".

"Clare's facts are not correct," Cr Weatherall said.

The bulldozer was leased to someone who worked at the site.

Cr Weatherall said Ms Curran had not spoken to either the quarry owner or himself in the past six weeks.

The court mediation was still under way, and while that was the case, there was an agreement to protect the skyline.

He had spoken to the quarry owners, and they intended to honour the agreement.

Of the mediation process, he said he could not reveal what was happening, other than to say there were three options on the table, and good faith mediation was continuing.

He could not give a timeframe for a solution, if it came, as there were "lots of complications", but the parties were working together to find a way to protect the landform, and he had confidence in the attitude of the owners.

Asked about residents' concerns about trucks regularly taking material from the quarry, he said the owners had an annual quantity they could extract and sell.

Material that was being taken did not affect the skyline.

"The rim of the hill has not been touched."

Ms Curran said it was not her job to ascertain whether there was a contract.

She was raising the issue because of concerns the situation was not being resolved, while the community group opposed to the quarry was "left more and more out on a limb".



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