Air pollution: Tighter controls imposed around Mount Maunganui industrial area

8:47 pm on 4 December 2023
An industrial area, housing and marae sit back to back in Mt Maunganui.

The Mount Maunganui industrial area was classified as a polluted air shed in 2019. Photo: Local Democracy Reporting/ SunLive

Heavy industry is set to stay in Mount Maunganui but stricter controls have been put in place on what will be allowed in future.

Mount Maunganui's industrial area, which sits on the western side of the isthmus, was classified as a polluted air shed in 2019.

A Te Whatu Ora report from July said poor air quality in Mount Maunganui was creating significant health risks.

Read more: Mount Maunganui: Life in a polluted air shed

Whareroa Marae on Taiaho Place has seen the industry grow up around it, and its residents believe industry is "slowly poisoning" them.

In 2020 the marae took its concerns to the Tauranga City Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council calling for the managed retreat of heavy industry away from their whenua.

An advisory group was set up and an investigation began into the potential for managed retreat of heavy industry from Totara Street, south of Hewletts Road.

Whareroa Marae

Some Whareroa Marae residents believe they are slowly being poisoned by air pollution. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

In March 2023, a Tauranga City Council report revealed there was "no feasible pathway" for relocation because many of the industrial activities had existing user rights under the Resource Management Act.

A further report was done, and the Mount Industrial Planning Study said options for restricting land use included requiring any new 'heavy industrial activity' to obtain land use consent.

A fertiliser plant is just one of the industrial businesses next to Whareroa Marae.

A fertiliser plant is just one of the industrial businesses next to Whareroa Marae. Photo: John Borren/SunLive. [via LDR Single use only] Photo: Local Democracy Reporting/ SunLive - John Borren

On Monday, the Strategy Risk and Finance Committee decided to not permit any new emitting industries within the Whareroa and Newton Road and MacDonald Street areas.

It also looked to transition to lighter industry over the long term in these areas. As well as restricting housing and accommodation within current commercial zoned areas of the Mount Maunganui air shed.

The council would also engage with Whareroa Marae about future aspirations around residential activity.

Mount Maunganui Industrial Study consultant David Phizacklea said they had "heard a lot" from mana whenua, the community, and businesses in the past year.

Unlike the rest of New Zealand's local councils, Tauranga City Council is governed by four commissioners instead of a mayor and councillors, after significant governance issues were found at the end of 2020. The commissioners were last year reappointed until July 2024.

Commission chairperson Anne Tolley said one of the challenges was that most businesses did not want to move.

Anne Tolley

Anne Tolley Photo: Local Democracy Reporting/ SunLive - John Borren

She said there was an inherent conflict between the marae and industry.

"We have an ancestral piece of land right in the heart of an industrial area and New Zealand's largest export port and that's not going to change, but what's been put there is a vision to try and manage that.

"Those businesses will continue because they have existing use rights, but we want to make sure that they are able to make changes to the way they operate that improves their environmental outcomes.

Changing the types of industry in the air shed could take decades, Tolley said.

Commissioner Stephen Selwood agreed: "The land use change is going to be slow and relatively blunt in terms of achieving the outcomes in a timely way."

Resource consents and environmental monitoring would have a more immediate effect, he said.

Committee member Rohario Murray asked how the vision balanced land use, supporting business growth, community well-being and the importance of the area to mana whenua, Ngāi Tukāirangi and Ngāti Kuku hapū.

Phizacklea replied it was a balancing act in terms of how the vision was implemented.

"What we didn't want to do was lose sight of the fact that Whareroa is the ancestral home for Ngāti Kuku and Ngāi Tukāirangi."

His report to council said businesses did not support the regulations.

Murray also wanted to remind people: "Industry is here right now and has been for a little while, Ngāi Tukāirangi and Ngāti Kuku hapū of Ngāi Te Rangi have been here for much longer. And so when we say the industry is not going anywhere, mana whenua are not going anywhere."

Council strategy and governance manager Christine Jones said in a statement the council could only effect change for future users of the land.

It could not address existing land users that had existing use rights, she said.

"The issues we are now seeing in the industrial area have been generations in the making."

Jones said to achieve their vision they would work with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, mana whenua, businesses and other stakeholders.

The recommendations would be put into the Mount to Arataki Spatial Plan which would be presented to the council in the first quarter of 2024.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs