Saddle Hill work spurs concerns

Construction of a new sediment pond and waterway on Saddle Hill has raised concerns quarry operators are flouting a court order banning activity that affects the hill's ridgeline.

But the owner says the works are within the law and are an attempt to protect the hill from future slips.

The quarry, on the lower hump of Saddle Hill, Jaffray Hill, has been the subject of a long-running legal battle between its owners, Saddle Views Estate Ltd (SVE), and the Dunedin City Council.

While consent exists for quarrying to continue at the hill, a court order means alterations to the hill's skyline are not permitted at present.

But Saddle Hill resident Dr Colin Mackintosh said work started last week included ''carving a new road'' in front of the quarry ''and clearly altering the skyline''.

''There's obviously a huge gash appearing on an iconic hill that should be preserved.''

An excavator and bulldozer had both been in use, ''so it's not trivial'', Dr Mackintosh said.

As a quarry opponent he wanted all work at the site to stop, but the new work he had witnessed was particularly worrying, he said.

''I'm concerned that this is more activity that's going to lead to more damage and desecration ...''

SVE's sole director Calvin Fisher said he was aware of the injunction and its orders, and had not breached them.

No road had been built on the site over the past week, he said, with the work in question being done to improve the hill's water retention ability.

There had been ''quite a lot of movement'' of land after June's high rainfall, and the hill was at risk of slips.

In response to that danger, a sediment pond had been constructed, connected by a new waterway involving sections of half-pipe being laid on the ground.

The water course and sediment pond would reduce the risk of future slips and mean less water run-off would end up on neighbouring properties, Mr Fisher said.

The work had occurred between the ridgeline and the road, and had involved ''no excavation whatsoever''.

A track had been cut down the hill to allow access for machinery, and was expected to be ''grassed up very quickly''.

Grass was being applied yesterday and today, he said.

''From our point of view, it's corrective surgery. It's not excavation.''

There had been ''absolutely no intention to agitate the council'' over the injunction, he said.

''We're not about to do anything adverse to affect our situation.

''There's no benefit to us except the long-term welfare of the quarry and hill.''

Council resource consents manager Alan Worthington said the council's consultant engineer had visited the site.

The council was now ''considering'' its position on the work, although as it was ''a live issue'' he was not able to say anything more.

He expected the council would ''resolve our thoughts on this relatively quickly''.

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