Port Tarakohe plans appear on track
9 August 2019 - Little blue penguin precinct possible as part of rejigged plan for Port Tarakohe. Port may undergo a large redevelopment to cater for expected growth. Article by Cherie Sivignon published on Stuff.co.nz.
Little blue penguins at Port Tarakohe appear on track to receive added protection under a likely rejig of a draft proposal for a multimillion-dollar redevelopment of the Golden Bay port.
However, it seems clear that sought-after improvements to the road between Pohara and the Tasman District Council-owned port must be tackled by a different route.
A hearing panel on Friday started deliberations on the port proposal and draft business plan, which was largely funded by the Government's Provincial Growth Fund as part of a $6.4 million investment in a top of the south ocean package. That same fund is also set to be tapped for a grant of more than $28m for the proposed upgrade of the port.
Expected growth of the mussel industry – from about 8000 tonnes to about 40,000 tonnes a year over the next 10 years – is the focus of the draft business case.
Deliberations by the hearing panel included consideration of 162 submissions received by the council about the proposed development. Many of those submissions support the establishment of a environment precinct along the western arm of the port. The precinct, proposed by the Mohua Blue Penguin Trust and Massey University professor John Cockrem, aimed to protect the world's smallest penguin, known officially as little penguins or kororā. A shorebird nesting sanctuary at the far end of the breakwater was also suggested.
Council staff also back the proposal. A report for the panel deliberations say staff "strongly support" the creation of a little blue penguin/kororā precinct and an area for shorebirds.
"Details of how and the best solution to achieve this should be worked through with Manawhenua Ki Mohua, the Mohua Blue Penguin Trust, Professor Cockrem and the community," the report says.
The deliberations were adjourned before the precinct was discussed in full. However, council strategic policy manager Sharon Flood said everyone was "probably all in agreement about the penguins".
Panel members also seemed to be in agreement that improvements were needed on the road between Pohara and the port for vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians.
However, panel chairman – mayor Richard Kempthorne – said a suggested shared pathway for cycling and walking would not be covered under the criteria for the Provincial Growth Fund.
"It's probably something council should be doing anyway."
The message to the community would be that the council was going to "address the vulnerable transport but not through this application", Kempthorne said.
Council transportation manager Jamie McPherson told the panel the expected increase of mussel tonnage would lead to an average of about eight additional movements of truck and trailer units a day, an increase that was "modest I would say". "The ability of the road network to accommodate that is not an issue in this case," McPherson said.
Massey University Professor John Cockrem says the Port Tarakohe site is the best artificial habitat for little penguins he has seen in New Zealand.
However, the panel heard the harvesting of mussels tended to have peaks – generally from April to May and August to October. They asked for clarification of how many truck and trailer units could be expected during those peak times.
Panel member Cr Dean McNamara asked if there could be a string of trucks travelling "through town at, say, 3 o'clock in the afternoon".
The deliberations report says staff acknowledge that the road has little provision for pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users.
"Given the modest increase in traffic resulting from the proposed port development, it would be unreasonable to require construction of a new path to mitigate effects of traffic from the development," the report says. "This means the path would need to be considered by council in its Long Term Plan 2021-31."
There was a lot of discussion by the panel about the layout of the proposed commercial section of the port to ensure businesses outside of the mussel industry could also be accommodated. At a hearing in Takaka on Wednesday, Sollys Freight owner Merv Solly said his company wanted continuation of access for the movement of dolomite and quarry rock.
Despite a lengthy discussion on the matter by the panel, nothing was finalised. "There needs to be a discussion with Merv," Kempthorne said. "We can't do that today so we do need to have, by the time council makes a decision, a conclusion that marries up recreational, marine farming, Merv – and works."
A second day for deliberations is to be scheduled. The panel is then due to make its recommendations on the port proposal to the full council on August 29. If the council adopts the recommendations, it will then apply to the Provincial Growth Fund for the capital investment required.
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Port Tarakohe plans appear on track - 9 August 2019
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