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Environment Waikato approves prison consents

Environment Waikato’s Commissioner has approved environmental resource consents for construction of the South Auckland prison.

The Minister of Corrections applied for consents for the construction and long-term operation of the South Auckland Men’s Corrections Facility on a 215 hectare site between Hampton Downs and Hall Roads, State Highway 1 and the Waikato River.

The joint hearing was conducted by Environment Waikato Commissioner John Kneebone, with three Waikato District Council Commissioners. A total of 78 submissions were received by Environment Waikato.

Earthworks include site formation works for the main building platform, a vehicle parking area, self care units and stormwater treatment/attenuation ponds, an internal access road, an on-site reservoir, formation of a realigned stream channel for the waterway and minor realignments of ephemeral watercourses.

Forty nine submitters presented evidence. Those opposed were concerned about inadequate site selection, distance from the community the prison serves, inadequate consultation, effects of the adjacent landfill on users of the facility and effects from these users on the landfill.

They were also concerned about security, traffic, alignment of Hampton Downs Road and improvement to Hall Road during construction, building height and effects on neighbouring properties, lighting, visitors’ effects on the community, land values and effects on Lake Waikare and the Whangamarino Wetland from the applicant’s proposal to connect into the Te Kauwhata Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Loss of productive soil and the effects on the community, including on existing services, social and economic costs to the community, cost to the New Zealand ratepayer, noise, dust and nuisance effects, the historical association and waahi tapu within the site were also a concern.

Submitters in support discussed the potential benefits, particularly prospective rehabilitation programs within the facility.

Making his decision, Mr Kneebone said the resource consents applied for from Environment Waikato related solely to construction earthworks, installation of structures within waterways, long-term diversion of waterways and runoff from the facility, and associated long-term stormwater management.

Issues such as site selection, effects on inmates from adjacent users or waahi tapu, security, lighting, costs, visual, traffic, property values, social impacts and effects on tourism were all matters for the Waikato District Council to consider as part of the notice of requirement process.

Environmental and nuisance effects during the construction works could be adequately avoided via on site sediment and dust controls.

Mr Kneebone stated that whether or not any of the affected area was waahi tapu required earnest consideration, but he was not persuaded that it was now waahi tapu in the accepted traditional Maori sense.

“Those who claimed that it is provided no convincing traditional evidence to support their case,” he said.

“I find it inconceivable that senior Maori elders, in whom traditional tribal history is entrusted, would remain silent if a truly sacred site faced the prospect of serious desecration.”

He said he could understand Envirowaste Services’ concerns about stormwater and effects on the Meremere East Drainage District, but considered that proposed conditions were sufficient to ensure no more than minor effects on land downstream.

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