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Restricting operating hours of a gold dredge working the Clutha River is not practical for the company behind it, though shifting it further upstream might be, a Central Otago District Council hearings panel was told yesterday.
The panel was hearing the application of Cold Gold Clutha Ltd for retrospective consent for dredge operations and creation of slipways where necessary.
A noise limit query earlier this year from Millers Flat residents Irene and Ernie Brown started the application process. Although Cold Gold Clutha noise tests returned results within the consented range, the Browns described the constant noise as ''intolerable''.
In a submission, they suggested the Otago Regional Council consented operating hours of 7am to 10pm, seven days a week, be restricted to 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, or that the dredge be moved 500m upstream.
Since the submission was written, the dredge had been moved 100m to 150m away from the Browns' house and the volume had subsided to a degree.
Mrs Brown told the panel yesterday it was not the volume of the noise that was annoying but the fact it was constant.
Cold Gold Clutha project manager Peter Hall told the hearing restricting operating hours was ''not practical'' for the company but relocation ''may be practical'', though he was worried it might set a precedent and ''every time someone complains about noise, we would have to move away''.
For that reason, he was ''reluctant'' for it to be included in the consent.
He said if the hours were restricted, things would be ''pretty grim'' for the company.
The company has a mining permit and consents to operate on the Clutha River from Roxburgh to Tuapeka Mouth. Though it has consent to operate near the Browns' property, Mr Hall said it was ''reluctant'' to in light of the noise complaint.
The regional council consented noise limit is 55 decibels. The reading taken below the Brown's property was 43dB.
Hearings panel chairman John Lane pointed out that the reading was taken too far away - it had been done at the bottom of the driveway which was a greater distance than the 20m ''notable boundary'' according to the Central Otago district plan, meaning the noise could have been louder than 43dB at the property.
Council's planning consultant David Whitney said it seemed that when the Browns were having problems with the noise, it was within the limits of the district plan.
Mr Hall said the company was ''very conscious of these sorts of issues'' which is why it had spent a lot of time and money reducing noise as much as possible. It was still louder than he expected but more sound-proofing work would be carried out in the new year.
The dredge is operating near the Millers Flat township but under regional council consents, it has to operate more than 750m upstream or 500m downstream from the town.
Mr Whitney recommended the council grant conditional consent. Conditions included a restriction on operating hours and noise but they were no different from the ones the company is already restricted to.
The company also applied to build slipways, as required by Maritime New Zealand. Mr Whitney recommended consent be given for that.
The panel reserved its decision. A written decision is expected within 15 working days.