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Port rejects pollution claims

CONSULTANTS for Eastland Port have denied claims at a hearing before an independent commissioner that the log yards are causing pollution and affecting water quality and aquatic life.

Speaking on behalf of Te Runanga o Turanganui a Kiwa and Ngati One One, Ian Ruru accused the port company of a history of broken promises and said they were trying to shift the goalposts in their attempt to change the conditions of the consent for the southern log yard.

In response, consultants for the port company said there was no firm evidence of the claimed decline in aquatic life within the port, and not all contaminants found in stormwater originated from the log yard.

The port is seeking to have variations to four of the conditions for the monitoring of water quality for its southern log yard.

The Gisborne District Council staff recommendation from water and coastal resources team leader Denis Crone is to grant the application.

The response from independent commissioner Peter Callander was to ask the consultants and the council to confer on conditions for consent and send them to him, after which he would make an interim or final decision on the application.

Contaminant levels would affect aquatic lifeMr Ruru said the proposed contaminant levels in the stormwater run-off would adversely impact on the water quality and aquatic life. The terms of the application were at the expense of future generations and the life-supporting capacity of natural resources and the natural and physical environment.

The port company had operated the inner harbour log yard illegally and without discharge consents for 27 years, he said. There was a track record of habitual non-compliance of consent conditions with the Kaiti Beach and Crawford Road log yards.

The proposed water quality limits in the consent were a step backwards, Mr Ruru said. He was speaking on behalf of people who “knew this area like the back of their hands”.

He had spent 20 years paddle-boarding and diving in the area and had noticed that the biggest change came from the introduction of logs.

Referring to the finding of a rare juvenile packhorse lobster at the port, he said he saw that as a sign saying “we are here, we are struggling, it is not a place where we thrive”.

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” he said.

“Dilution is not the solution to pollution.”

Tairawhiti Rock Lobster Industry Association spokesman Gordon Halley said the port had made commendable efforts to improve performance.

The association had two requests — first, to estimate the total amount of copper — soluble or otherwise — that would be discharged into the sea over the remaining 29 years of the consent; second, to consider a biological alternative developed by Waikato University to treat for sap stain.

Argued that copper use unwiseThe fact this alternative was developed suggested other bodies considered the continued use of copper anti-sap stain treatment was unwise, Mr Halley said.

Port logistics infrastructure manager Marty Bayley said the company had spent $600,000 and a lot of work had gone on to keep pollutants out of the stormwater discharge. Other chemicals were being trialled for sap staining.

Principal ecologist for 4Sight Consulting Mark Poynter said there was no evidence of a decline in the crayfish levels in the port or in the wild fishery.

Kaiti Beach road surface discharges went into the log yard’s stormwater discharge. Not all the contaminants came from sap staining and copper levels had fallen recently.

The contamination levels were consistent with a working port.

“I don’t accept Mr Ruru’s view that we are going backwards,” he said

Principal planning and policy consultant Max Dunn, also of 4Sight, said an application for a consent for the wharfside log yard had been lodged that day. The grand plan was to have consistency of consents and conditions.

File picture.