Gisborne Port's neighbours endure 'banging, crashing and thumping'

5:32 pm on 9 November 2021

Residents of houses near Gisborne's port are enduring noise, vibration and dust conditions one person has compared to an earthquake and an acoustics specialist says is harmful to neighbours.

An independent review has found noise and vibrations from the upper logging yard at Eastland Port appears to be causing harm to neighbours.

An independent review has found noise and vibrations from the upper logging yard at Eastland Port appears to be causing harm to neighbours. Photo: LDR/ Gisborne Herald/ Liam Clayton

Concerns raised by the community prompted district health board Hauora Tairāwhiti to commission the Environmental Noise Analysis and Advice Service (ENAAS) to review the situation.

The independent review picked major holes in the framework set up to regulate noise from the port's activities, saying it deviated from "best practice" seen at other ports and was based on a resource management plan riddled with "inadequacies, errors and outdated information".

Residents, who have lived in Kaiti long before the port crept closer with the 2015 build of the upper log yard on the corner of Crawford and Rakaiatane roads, say the noise, dust and vibrations are disturbing.

Allyson Burrows has lived in the same house on Parau Street for 37 years, dating back to when the freezing works was in operation.

It was nowhere near as noisy as today's logging operations at the port, she said.

"You're lying awake at 2 or 3 in the morning and you've got banging, crashing and thumping and you're thinking 'is that an earthquake?'" Burrows said.

Gisborne District Council is the noise control regulator and is responsible for ensuring the port is meeting its resource consents and the rules laid out in the Tairāwhiti Resource Management Plan.

In the independent review released in July, acoustics noise specialist Dr Stephen Chiles said the sound and vibrations from forestry logs being shifted around in the upper logging yard were harming neighbouring residents.

Effects of the noisy log yard on the adjacent residential area could include sleep disturbance, annoyance and even cardiovascular disease, he said.

Five houses near the port were bought by the port and resold with covenants that discourage future owners from complaining about the noise, vibration and dust.

The owner of the port, Eastland Group, said the covenants do not prevent owners from making complaints, but are a "useful tool" that ensures new residents are aware of the nearby port, which must still operate within its resource consents and the district plan.

However, Dr Chiles said while there was some benefit to using "no-complaints covenants" to forewarn prospective residents of the noise, it didn't actually change the effect of the port's noise on health - especially when port activities had intensified since the properties were bought.

"A more effective approach might have been for the port company to acoustically treat the houses before selling them, but it is understood that did not occur," Chiles said.

A large acoustic wall was built around the upper log yard.

A large acoustic wall was built around the upper log yard. Photo: LDR/ Gisborne Herald/ Liam Clayton

Eastland Group chief operating officer Andrew Gaddum said the company was constantly striving to find the appropriate balance between port operations to serve the region's economy and being a good neighbour.

"This is not always an easy task but as a working port located alongside residential houses, operating within the legal limits of our resource consents and port zoning is extremely important to us.

"It's equally important that we update our neighbours and the wider community on projects and activities, hear their feedback and continue to look at ideas to help mitigate the impacts of noise and vibrations," Gaddum said.

A port community liaison group was established in 2008 to ensure regular communication between the port and its immediate neighbours, and was one of several ways residents could raise issues, he said.

Brent Cuthbert, who has lived on Harris Street for a decade, requested the expert acoustic review after witnessing a significant increase in "offensive" noise and vibration from the 24/7 operation. This coincided with a marked increase in port export log activity, Cuthbert said.

Eastland Port shifted a record three million tonnes of cargo in the financial year ending March 2018.

"I had serious concerns with shortcomings evident in the resource consents, district plan, noise complaints process and the night-time noise protection of affected residents," Cuthbert said.

Chiles echoed his concerns. His review highlighted a "significant issue" in the definition of "essential" and "non-essential" port activity, with different noise controls for each and an "error" in the port boundaries that he said "makes compliance impossible".

He also said the district plan's noise boundaries were based on an outdated forecast of port activity and excluded activity in areas such as the upper log yard. There also didn't appear to be a high level of trust between residents and the port, and residents felt their concerns were "ignored", Chiles said.

He recommended a single, consistent set of noise controls be put in place that covered all port activities and called on Gisborne District Council and Eastland Group to further investigate the issues.

Gaddum said the port had taken actions at the upper log yard, including the installation of a large acoustic wall around the perimeter of the site, a single entry/exit point to reduce traffic near residential properties and consistent hard surfacing.

Some actions the port had taken to reduce noise in the upper log yard included reducing some of the log storage heights to five metres to minimise operational noise above the acoustic wall and not using high stackers between 9pm and 7am. Contractors were instructed on the rules to follow and, if there were any issues, a "robust process" was in place to address and rectify them. The port also established a new environmental manager role to manage resource consents and actively promote, manage and ensure compliance.

The port was continuing to work through further options for mitigating operational impacts, and had started to discuss these with neighbours, with ideas including installing dual noise monitors in and near the upper log yard, extending the acoustic panel fence around the upper log yard entrance and a noise shroud around the hoist unit, Gaddum said.

Council environmental services and protection director Helen Montgomery said the review of the TRMP would look at existing definitions and location of port noise boundaries. If there were any proposed changes to port noise boundaries, and/or definitions, the public and the port would have the opportunity to make submissions.

Members of the public can raise issues by calling the council on 867-2049 or emailing the port at

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