Environment Waikato, Auckland Regional Council and Taranaki Regional Council have granted resource consents for the installation of a submarine fibre optic telecommunications cable from Waiuku to New Plymouth.
The joint hearing was for coastal permits, including Restricted Coastal Activities, to install the 36-38mm cable a metre below the seabed using a mole plough, compressed air and trenching. The cable will be the third leg of an expanded broad band cable network for telecommunications and television customers from Christchurch to Auckland.
The applications covered placement of the cable structure, use of vehicles and disturbing the foreshore and seabed along the west coast of the Waikato and Taranaki Regions. Auckland Regional Council and Taranaki Regional Councils received 11 submissions and Environment Waikato 10.
Issues raised by submitters included insufficient information on the real and actual effects on fishing and the ecology of the coastal environment, the possibility of cable snag for boat owners, maintaining the cable burial, and risk of a cable protection zone being imposed which would affect the economy of fishing in the area. Submitters were also concerned that the application was contrary to planning documents, and sound resource management principles.
They said there had been insufficient information on the effects of the cable on commercial fishing, and that it conflicted with the activities of other user groups in the water.
Tangata whenua also had concerns about consultation, desecration of the domain of Tangaroa, god of the sea, effects on the fishing industry and waahi tapu sites. The Department of Conservation was concerned about restricted public access and effects on the foreshore.
Appropriate experts stated that there would be no significant ecological effects from the installation, use and maintenance. Burial of the cable would not cause any significant adverse environmental effects on marine life, and there were no significant habitats or populations at the three landing sites that would be affected by the installation programme.
The Committee decided that on the basis of evidence that if the cable remained buried below the seabed to a minimum depth of one metre for 90 percent of the route, then the risk of trawl strike was remote and there were no actual or potential environmental effects.
On the issue of cultural offence, the Committee said the discharge of sewage was more offensive than the activity proposed. It was also necessary to state clearly in the consent what the requirements would be when the cable became obsolete.
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