Environmental concerns over Kaikoura landslip work

One of the landslips blocking State Highway 1 near Kaikoura. Photo: ODT files
One of the landslips blocking State Highway 1 near Kaikoura. Photo: ODT files

Thousands of tonnes of rock and rubble displaced in the Kaikoura Earthquake can be pushed into the sea without consent from local authorities under emergency law changes to be introduced on Tuesday.

The legislation will also give the Government authority to immediately dredge Kaikoura's seabed to improve boat access.

Speaking at his weekly press conference on Monday afternoon, Prime Minister John Key said two new Bills relating to earthquake recovery would be passed under urgency in Parliament on Tuesday. A third Bill will be debated on Thursday and go through a shortened public consultation process.

The changes would ``allow us to rectify the situation as quickly as possible'', Mr Key said.

The legislation has broad support, although the Greens are expected to object to some parts of the it on environmental grounds.

Mr Key admitted there were some environmental concerns about dredging the seabed and pushing coastal landslips into the ocean off Kaikoura, which is home to whale and dolphin species.

He has not had any advice on potential impacts to marine habitats, but said ``obviously that's the area that has some concerns''.

``In the first instance, Mother Nature's already done a fair bit of [damage], just spilt rocks into the sea anyway.

``Secondly, I think it comes down to what's practical . . . I don't think it's practical to just take a lot of those rocks out.''

The whale watching industry has lobbied for the Kaikoura harbour to be dredged urgently. The seabed lifted by several metres in the magnitude 7.8 quake on November 14, blocking operators from leaving the harbour outside a two-hour window at high tide.

The legislation is similar to changes made after the Christchurch earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.

Mr Key ruled out permanent legislation which gave the Government special powers after any major natural disaster. He said the Christchurch and Kaikoura quakes required very different responses, and it would be difficult to create ``one size fits all'' legislation without raising concerns about potential misuse of powers.

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