Holcim buys land near proposed plant site

Holcim is buying land around its $200 million cement plant at Weston, sand quarry at Windsor and opencast coal mine at Ngapara to provide a buffer zone for its proposed operations.

The company, which will not make a decision until later this year, at the earliest, whether to build the plant, has bought an 8.722ha lifestyle block opposite the cement plant on the Weston-Ngapara Rd and has other sales pending.

It has approval from the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) for the purchase of the lifestyle block owned by Ali and Joy Kingan and approval is pending for other purchases.

Holcim needs OIO approval because it is an overseas-owned company, 90% in Switzerland and 10% in the United States.

Holcim's capital projects manager Ken Cowie confirmed the purchase of the Kingan property yesterday, but said the price was confidential. Mr Kingan, when contacted, said they intended to buy another property in North Otago.

‘‘We will have to find somewhere else to live,'' he said.

When Holcim announced its intention in 2006 to build the plant, Mr Kingan had reservations about continuing to live on the lifestyle block, which they were developing for their retirement.

It is on the opposite side of the road to the proposed plant, and would be the closest house.

Holcim had approached Mr and Mrs Kingan ‘‘early in the piece'' and worked through the purchase.

‘‘We are disappointed to be leaving, but there was no way we could stay there, because it was too close to the plant,'' Mr Kingan said.

Mr Cowie said cement companies preferred to have large buffer zones around their operations.

Holcim bought the Kingan property because it was one of the closest to the cement plant site. It had no plans at this stage to do anything with it, but it could be useful in the future.

It would give Holcim as much of a buffer around the plant as possible.

‘‘We don't think of ourselves as farmers, so we would probably lease or rent it out in the future,'' he said. That would also apply to other land the company had negotiated to purchase as buffer zones, subject to OIO approval.

‘‘We have other purchases at various stages around all our operational sites, although no other transactions have yet been completed,'' he said.

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