The Press

We need rock to get NZ rolling

- Wayne Scott chief executive, Aggregate & Quarry Associatio­n

It would be tempting to think that, whichever main party is in power after September, there would be major infrastruc­ture projects rolling out as a response to our economic crisis. In fact, we may see only a trickle, whether it’s a red or blue coalition.

The reason? Because politician­s of all persuasion­s have paid only lip service to ensuring the rock, stone and sand that are the foundation for all infrastruc­ture can actually be provided. That’s despite the mounting costs to taxpayers and ratepayers of failing to plan for quarries.

Transmissi­on Gully’s delays and cost blowouts are the latest example. There’s never been a planning exercise that looked at where the huge quantities of necessary rock, aggregate and sand would come from.

Transmissi­on Gully’s 27 kilometres of highway across four lanes will require more than 750,000 tonnes, or 20,000 truckloads, of constructi­on aggregates. Sure, there are quarries in the Wellington region, but their products are also needed for all existing and new roading projects, along with water and other infrastruc­ture suffering from years of neglect, and an expanding housing market.

A behemoth like Transmissi­on Gully needed multiple sources of supply; only in relatively recent times has one additional quarry been brought into production.

The project was started under the last government without the necessary planning, and not much has changed under the current administra­tion. Both failed to get the message that you cannot build anything unless you have sufficient locally sourced quarry materials.

As a result, taxpayers pay to cart material from as far north as Huntly and across Cook Strait. Quarry materials are cheap – perhaps $20-$25 a tonne at the gate; the big cost comes in transporti­ng them. Little wonder Transmissi­on Gully is now a $1 billion-plus project and its forecast opening this year may now stretch into 2022.

The O¯ po¯ tiki Wharf developmen­t provides an example of what planning for local rock supply can contribute to a project. A halt was called a couple of years ago when the costs blew out towards $150 million, in large part because it was proposed to haul in rock from nearly 100km away.

The Aggregate & Quarry Associatio­n worked with GNS Science and identified potentiall­y five sources of supply close to O¯ po¯ tiki, some existing quarries and others needing resource consents. This assisted the February announceme­nt that the project is going ahead, with a pricetag not much more than half the earlier highest projection. (Local rock supply didn’t make up all the savings, but was a big contributo­r.)

The AQA has since been supporting a bid for GNS to complete a national survey of aggregate resources. We are yet to get the necessary $600,000 in funding from the Government; this would identify where the rock would come from for the billions that both main parties promise in infrastruc­ture spending.

Such planning would also allow areas containing existing and future viable supplies of to be roped off and protected by exclusion zones, to avoid the approval of non-compatible land uses (eg housing) nearby. This will not only protect the aggregate resources but avoid resource consent disputes which quarries often get drawn into with close and sometimes quite distant neighbours.

We’ve written a briefing document on these issues and sent it to all MPs. We are disappoint­ed by the lack of response. The most positive response came from Climate Change Minister James Shaw. He at least may appreciate the carbon savings that planning for local quarries would deliver (we also supply the materials for rail ballast, cycleways, footpaths, walkways . . .).

We don’t want any stones thrown – let’s just get some glasshouse transparen­cy on where politician­s see the materials coming from for all those infrastruc­ture promises.

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