Consent sought for controversial quarry

The company behind a sand quarry on the banks of the Waikato River and close to Mount Maungatautari has applied for a resource consent.

The application comes at least five years after significant mining began there.

Elwyn Andree-Wiltens

Beacon Hill Contracting Ltd shareholder and Waipā District councillor Elwyn Andree-Wiltens confirmed a resource consent for the Oreipunga Sand Quarry was to be submitted to the council yesterday (Wednesday), 20 days after The News started asking questions about the mining operation.

But mining expert Rhys Powell, an opponent to a planned quarry just south of Cambridge, says the Oreipunga sand quarry should not be allowed to restart operations or apply retrospectively for a resource consent.

“That quarry is right between Maungatautari mountain and the Waikato River. Both are of significant cultural importance,” he said.

The district council and Waikato Regional Council are holding their own investigations into the quarry with Waipā staff initially saying farm quarries are a permitted activity in the rural zone and then suggesting the Covid pandemic was a contributing factor in the quarry not having a consent.

That is despite maps on the district council website showing the quarry was active in 2017 – years before Covid arrived in New Zealand.

The district council, alerted to the quarry by The News, suspended all operations at the site after an enforcement officer visited last week and met with the owners and a consultant for the company.

Waipa Mayor Jim Mylchreest

Mayor Jim Mylchreest, in response to questions from The News, refused to comment on whether he was considering suspending Cr Andree-Wiltens because of her involvement in the quarry or whether sand from the quarry was used in any district projects.

The News has been told sand from Oreipunga has been supplied to at least two significant developments which required council approval at the planning stage.

Andree-Wiltens, who chairs the Maungatautari Reserve committee, has declared a pecuniary interest in Beacon Hill Contracting on the council’s interest register.

But despite questions from The News, Waipā staff and Mylchreest would not say whether she declared an interest when projects involving Beacon Hill Contracting, were discussed and voted on by councillors.

Beacon Hill’s website says it works alongside local and regional councils for project consents and that its work base diversified into civil works, drainage and roading in the last decade.

Wayne Allan

Wayne Allan

District Growth and Regulatory Services group manager Wayne Allan has confirmed the council was unaware of the commercial operations of the quarry until The News started making enquiries.

“Due to being unaware of the commercial nature of this quarry, we had not informed any other parties. We will now work through the notifications,” he said.

That would include Tainui tribes – Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Wairere, Ngāti Hauā and Ngāti Korokī – Waikato River Authority, which monitors the health and wellbeing of the river, WorkSafe, which is responsible for administering legislation around health and safety at work and the regional council.

The News suggested to Waipā District Council this week it did not appear to appreciate how seriously the issue was being viewed in the community.

In response, Communication and Engagement manager Hannah Blake said chief executive Garry Dyet and Allan were on leave.

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