Dredge hours may not alter

A Teviot Valley couple's bid to get some peace and quiet by restricting the operating hours of a gold dredge near their house might fail.

Ernie and Irene Brown first had asked the Central Otago District Council about the noise levels of Cold Gold Clutha's dredge which operates on the Clutha River below their Millers Flat property.

When the council realised the company would need retrospective consent for its operations, the couple made a submission asking for operating hours to be reduced or for the dredge to be moved away from their house.

The issue will come before the council's hearings panel tomorrow and planning consultant David Whitney has recommended the panel gives conditional consent.

However, the conditions he has suggested are the same as those imposed by the Otago Regional Council in terms of operating hours and noise. Operating hours approved by the regional council are 7am to 10pm seven days a week, with extra restrictions over Christmas-New Year and Easter holiday.

The Browns had suggested hours of 9am-5pm Monday to Friday.

They say when the dredge is operating they experience ''intolerable'' noise levels.

A noise test commissioned by the company and conducted on October 4 concluded the dredge did not breach the regional council's consented noise limit of 55 decibels. Below the submitters' property, the reading was 43dB.

The readings were taken on State Highway 8, which runs alongside the river, but the Browns said because they lived on a hill above the river, the sound intensified as it was carried up to them.

Mr Whitney agreed, saying ''it appears likely that the noise level experienced at the Brown dwelling may exceed that specified in the noise test results''.

''In our view, the noise test results provided by the applicant should not be regarded as being definitive given that no allowance is made for the effects of topography on noise propagation.''

He added the company had taken steps to reduce noise - the dredge had a wet exhaust system and the engine and gold-recovery rooms had noise-reducing linings.

''It appears the applicant has taken all practicable steps in the design and construction of the dredge to mitigate noise effects.''

While the couple has suggested the dredge be relocated or its operating hours reduced, they neither support nor oppose the consent application.

But they do oppose it ''if it is to continue operating in its current location at Millers Flat''.

''We anticipate that the applicant will advise prior to or at the hearing how long the dredge is expected to be located in any particular locality, including in the vicinity of the submitters' property,'' Mr Whitney's report says.

The application is also for the construction of slipways.

The 24m suction dredge was launched just below the Roxburgh Dam in February 2012 but experienced teething problems.

It was taken off the water near Ettrick in October last year and relaunched in August this year.

Maritime New Zealand rules state the vessel must be ''slipped'' for survey, repairs and/or alterations, the consent application said.

The regional council granted the company consent to form an access track to the river and build a temporary slipway.

Mr Whitney has also recommended conditional consent be granted for slipways.

''It is CGCL's understanding that this may also require CODC consent,'' the application said.

The company has consents from the Otago Regional Council and a mining permit and access agreement from Land Information New Zealand to operate on the Clutha River from Roxburgh to Tuapeka Mouth.

-sarah.marquet@odt.co.nz

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