Auckland Council has reversed its position on Waiheke Marinas Ltd’s application for a 160-berth marina at Matiatia, from the original recommendation to decline it to a revised position of qualified support.
The turnaround has come largely through the Environment Court caucusing process following direct referral of the application, bypassing the council’s own consent hearings process.
The council indicated a possible change of position in June, when the senior council planner on the application, Nicole Bremner, filed the first draft of her evidence in chief. Ms Bremner has since left the council. Counsel Matthew Allan told the court on Friday her evidence had changed after she’d read the evidence of the applicant & Auckland Transport.
The direct referral process puts the council in the position of a court assistant, and Mr Allan provided what the council saw as an objective assessment of the application & environmental effects. He said Ms Bremner’s evidence had 12 specialist reports attached to it.
Broadly, Ms Bremner’s assessment, plus the specialist technical assessments, indicated that consent could be granted, subject to appropriate conditions & several caveats.
The hearing began in the Environment Court’s main downtown Auckland courtroom last Monday, with opening submissions by Richard Brabant for the applicant, followed by cross-examination of witnesses in support.
The council presented its submissions on Friday and the court moved to Waiheke today for the second week of hearing, including the completion of the council case. The courts hearing panel – Principal Judge Laurie Newhook with commissioners Anne Leijnen & Russell Howie – will conduct a second site visit tomorrow then hear cultural evidence on the marae on Wednesday and other island witnesses on Thursday-Friday.
Direction Matiatia counsel will deliver their submissions to start the third week of the hearing, back on the mainland.
Waiheke Marinas has applied for resource consent for a 160-berth marina plus 55-space carpark. The marina berths would displace the Matiatia Bay northern mooring area, providing 3 times as many berths. The company also amended its parking application in April, offering a deck on piles alternative to reclamation, covering the same footprint.
Mr Brabant said the marina responded to an identifiable demand in a more sheltered & secure mooring environment than any of the existing mooring areas could provide, along with the advantages of being beside the ferry terminal and with direct access to public & private transport facilities.
Berth prices haven’t been set yet, but marine industry consultant Phil Wardale, who said he was the intended operator and gave evidence last week, told the court berths would be expensive, partly because the marina would be small: “If the mooring is $2000 [figures of $2-4000/mooring at Matiatia were given], this is not a $20,000 berth. For the smaller berths, it is $100,000-plus. A 14m berth at Orakei marina is transferring at the moment in the order of $150,000.”
The original council report on the application identified 4 aspects where effects might be more than minor – traffic (if marina traffic had no time restriction), localised visual & amenity effects, copper accumulation on the ecology & water within the inner bay and noise for nearby residents.
However, Ms Bremner said she didn’t have enough information relating to effects on cultural & spiritual values of Maori to determine the degree of those effects.
Mr Allan said in his opening submissions the caucusing process had been particularly useful: “In a number of areas, agreement has been reached among the experts that the effects will be minor lr less than minor in nature, with no areas of disagreement.
“For instance, no issues of concern arise in relation to lighting effects, water supply & wastewater, stormwater management and coastal processes (encompassing coastal engineering, marina design, geotechnical & wave/wake effects.”
Nevertheless, Mr Allan said although caucusing had refined or narrowed issues, contention remained in 8 broad areas – acoustics/vibration, visual/landscape, recreation/tourism effects, archaeology, ecology, traffic/transport, cultural effects and reclamation/dredging.
One question which Mr Brabant raised was antifouling for boat hulls. Mr Brabant said the consent shouldn’t carry a condition requiring the marina operator to control discharge of antifouling contaminants from boats into the water. However, Mr Wardale accepted in cross-examination that antifouling measures could be addressed through berth holder contracts.
Mr Allan said Mr Brabant’s point was “unduly technical” and, if the court accepted it, would limit the Resource Management Act’s ability to address an acknowledged potential adverse effect on the quality of the environment.
On the positive side the marina applicant, Mr Bremner identified 10 positive effects of the proposal, and the counbcil’s own coastal plan generally acknowledged some positive effects of marina, such as enhancing amenity for boat users, concentrating vessels & associated effects into defined areas and providing for a more efficient use of harbour space.
Barring successful argument from opponents, the council has proposed a single set of conditions if the court accepts the marina application, following the process from preconstruction through to post-construction management. The applicant preferred 3 separate consents, each with its own conditions, but Mr Allan said this would create unnecessary duplication.