Lifestylers versus orchards

The conflict between rural residential living and noisy rural activities was highlighted as lifestyle block residents squared off against orchardists in Alexandra this week.

Gas guns and sirens used for bird-scaring during the fruit season were spoiling rural residents' peace over summer, several said, while orchardists said cherries boosted the Central Otago economy by about $50 million a year and the total fruit crop boosted it by about $100 million annually.

The differing views were heard at Central Otago District Plan review discussion document hearings. More than 100 written submissions have been received on proposed changes to the plan and the district council's hearing panel set aside three days this week to hear from those who submitted.

The discussion document said the Rural Resource Area was for rural production and some aspects had the potential to disturb neighbours. However, the council had no plans to ban gas guns, wind machines or bird-scaring devices.

There were provisions in the plan relating to noise in rural areas and those rules would be revisited to ensure they were effective.

Marg and Gerry Eckhoff bought a lifestyle block near Alexandra three years ago and ''we knew there would be a certain amount of noise,'' Mr Eckhoff said.

They had no objection to fans or helicopters being used for frost-fighting as it was occasional but said noise pollution from bird-scaring devices for several months a year, dawn to dusk, was unacceptable.

Netting could be used to protect crops from birds so audible bird-scarers could be phased out over time, Mr Eckhoff said.

''If we are not entitled to quiet enjoyment of our properties, then what are we entitled to?''

Alister and Helen Hillis said they built their home near Alexandra 27 years ago, several years before a cherry orchard was developed on the neighbouring block.

It was now too noisy for them to have barbecues and enjoy outdoor living over summer and the noise affected the whole neighbourhood, Mr Hillis said.

They sought a ban on mobile gas guns and on ''emergency-type'' sirens being used for bird-scaring. Horticulture New Zealand natural resources and environment manager Chris Keenan said management of reverse sensitivity was a key issue for growers around the country.

They sought clear rules about bird-scarers and frost fans.

In principle, the industry group was ''not averse'' to rules being set to govern the number of times a bird-scaring device could be used within an hour.

Mr Keenan urged the council to be careful about the location of rural residential subdivisions.

Export cherry business manager and Summerfruit New Zealand vice chairman Tim Jones, of Cromwell, said the area planted in cherries in the district was expected to increase to 550ha within five years.

Close to 5000 tons of cherries were produced last season and that would increase by up to 30% in the next five years.

He highlighted the value of the cherry and fruit crop to the district's economy.

lynda.van.kempen@odt.co.nz

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