Pollution at Auckland’s Chelsea Bay ponds leaves locals angry with council

Pollution at Auckland's Chelsea Bay ponds leaves locals angry with council

Dead eels, paralysed ducks and violently green water has left some Chelsea Bay locals concerned the pollution in the ponds surrounding the iconic sugar factory is getting out of control.

A number of ponds near the Chelsea Sugar Factory on Auckland’s North Shore play host to a raft of native and exotic fish species.

However, locals are concerned the wildlife is in danger because they feel Auckland Council is not doing enough to stop pollutants getting in the pond.

Resident Doug Waters said every summer the water gets an algal bloom, but this season the pollution seemed particularly bad.

“I don’t think the council are even going anywhere near to do doing enough. The bottom line is there should not be that degree of algal bloom. I think they are treating the ponds as waste water plants.”

On a daily basis, dead or sick ducks were being pulled from the water, along with eels, Waters said. The ducks were likely getting sick from avian botulism, which can leave them paralysed.

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Raw sewage had leaked into the ponds, along with litter and other contaminants, Waters said. When it rained, the water in the ponds spilled over into the sea at Chelsea Bay which left Waters wondering if wider bay was being polluted.

“From time to time I swim across Chelsea Bay, but you are swimming through an area which is potentially toxic. People walk their dogs down there at low tide, and the dogs splash in that water, and people walk through the water. It is a health hazard.”

While the ponds sit close to the sugar factory, they are the responsibility of the Auckland Council. Another local, who did not want to be named, said it was the council, not Chelsea, who needed to clean up their act.

“If anyone should be doing the right thing it is Auckland Council,” she said.

“Any waterway has got to be protected, you have a special waterway with significant fish in it, they are allowing it to be polluted, and that pollution is going out in the sea – and area which is used a lot for recreation. You could say the sea is so big it can cope, but it is all incremental.”

However, Auckland Council General Manager for Healthy Waters Craig Mcilroy said they had not received any reports of dead or sick wildlife.

“We have not received reports of wildlife getting sick at this site,” he said.

In order to prevent the spread of duck botulism and other related toxins, the council suggests members of the public pick up their pets’ waste and dispose of it.

They also advise against feeding ducks.

People should report sightings of sick or dead ducks, or even swans, to the council on 09 301 0101.

Mcilroy said they were alerted to a leak in a wastewater pipe at Chelsea Bay on Friday, January 12, but it had since been fixed.

“Once alerted to the leak, Watercare crew attended the site, stopped the leak and repaired the pipe by Friday evening. We are currently awaiting reinstatement.”

Mcilroy added that there were two culverts leaking nutrients into the pond from a nearby landfill site, which was likely a “major factor” in causing the algal bloom.

“The council’s Healthy Waters team is currently working on redirecting the culverts, which should make a significant impact on reducing the nutrients entering the ponds and solve the algal bloom issue.

“We expect to finish this project by the end of 2018,” he said.

Sylvia Durrant, who helps care for sick birds, said a mixture of high temperatures and low water levels often caused botulism to spread.

“When the water levels go down, the ducks eat off the bottom of pond which is where the toxins live.”

Over the past three weeks, Durrant had cared for twenty ducks from the Chelsea Bay ponds. She believed it wasn’t just the council’s responsibility, but also the public’s.

“Whenever anyone tips something down the gutter, or litters it ends up in the ponds. It’s not just the council’s fault.”

According to the Chelsea Sugar Factor website, the ponds have large koi carp and short and long-finned eels, along with native fish species include inanga, kokopu and common bully.

Article by Tommy Livingston
Published 17 January 2018 > Business Day – stuff.co.nz

Proposed Plan Change 16: Submitters Get a Second Chance

Submitters opposed to the Chelsea Sugar Refinery plan change will get a second chance to have their views heard because hearing commissioners say an article in the New Zealand Herald could have been misinterpreted.

North Shore City Council’s spokesman Trevor Mackie says that the four-day hearing in February was adjourned rather than closed because independent commissioners wanted the opportunity to notify additional submitters.

The issue was raised by a number of submitters that the article in the Herald led the community to believe that the plan change was off and that they didn’t need to go the hearing, says Mr Mackie.

Chelsea Sugar Refinery is seeking a change to the North Shore City Council’s district plan to allow it to develop the site if the refinery closed.

The land is zoned Business 9 for industrial activities. The owners are asking for an amendment to the district plan, which would allow for the development of residential and small-scale business activities.

The plan change is still being requested but Chelsea made amendments to its proposal before the hearing and withdrew more detailed plans, but it still includes plans to build 528 units on 15 hectares of waterfront land where the refinery currently operates.

The council will be sending letters out to more than 600 submitters to notify them of the latest revisions and to give those who didn’t
get a chance to speak an opportunity to do so.

Many submissions expressed concern about the effect the development would have on the historical site.

In December 2005 the Chelsea Park Trust entered a conditional agreement for the sale of the remaining 37ha of the land that the refinery would not build on.

The trust has secured $20 million for the land for a regional park, with $10m coming from North Shore City Council, but it is conditional on

Chelsea Sugar Refinery receiving .a “satisfactory planning outcome”.

Speakers at the hearing included representatives from the Chelsea Sugar Refinery, Chelsea Park Trust, New Zealand Historic Places Trust,

North Shore City Council, Birkenhead Residents Association, Auckland Regional Council and individual submitters from the area.

The independent commissioners at the hearing included lawyer Michael Savage, who also chaired the Long Bay and Birkenhead library hearings, Terry Brown, a transportation and traffic expert and Jenny Hudson a planning consultant.

We thank Kim Reed and North Shore Times, for permission to reprint this article in full.

Credits

Written by: Kim Reed
Reprinted with permission: North Shore Times

Plan Change 16: A Timeline Of Events

Background – It was the vision of the Chelsea Regional Park
Association to protect the Uruamo Headland from Kauri Point to Chelsea as one great urban park for the people of Auckland.
An agreement for the sale of buffer land surrounding the sugar works fell short of protecting the refinery site.

Dec 2005 – NZ Sugar Company Ltd and Chelsea Park Trust announced the conditional sale of 36.7 hectares of parkland for $20 million, subject to the following conditions:-

  • Chelsea Sugar are able to continue operating on the present 24/7 basis.
  • Chelsea Park Trust obtaining funds to complete the purchase.
  • Quote: “That in the unlikely event the refinery was relocated, a suitable pattern of land use for the refinery site is in place for the future.”

 
Apr 2006 – $100 million upgrade in capacity of CSR’s sugar refining plant in Melbourne is announced in “The Age”

  • Chelsea Mixed Use Overlay Plan Change 16 (incl 527 residential units) was notified to the Public.
  • Public meetings regarding Plan Change 16 attracted
    large numbers of concerned residents.

 

May 2006 – Submissions for Plan Change 16 closed 5th May.
Over 500 submissions were received.

Aug 2006 – Submissions were summarised and released for
further submission.

Sep 2006 – Further Submissions closed friday 29th

Feb 2007 – Hearing for plan change 16 (Chelsea) is scheduled for Tues 20 to Thurs 22 February

Feb 12 2007 – Chelsea withdraws detailed plan. The original application for plan change 16 has been amended by deleting the detail planning maps suggesting where buildings would be sited, dispensing with the “Chelsea mixed use overlay area and plan” and introducing the alternative of the “Chelsea future use and conservation zone”

Feb 26 & 27 2007– Bruce & Virginia Stainton, Carol Scott, Douglas Love, Heather Nicholson, Scott Cordes, Geoff Sawyer and Penny Hext made submissions at the hearing.

Mar 8 2007 – Submitters opposed to the Chelsea Sugar Refinery plan change get a second chance to have their views heard because hearing commissioners say an article in the New Zealand Herald could have been misinterpreted.

Nov 2 2007 – The Hearing Commissioners’ decision on submissions (including further submissions) to the Proposed (Private) Plan Change 16 – Chelsea Mixed Use Overlay Area and Plan is released.

Proposed Plan Change 16: BRA Not Satisfied By Chelsea Decision

Decisions by North Shore City on Private Plan Change 16 to the District Plan in regards to the Chelsea Sugar Refinery land at Birkenhead have been made public.

Proposed Plan Change and overall determination.
This decision report specifies the Hearing Commissioners’ decision on submissions (including further submissions) to the Proposed (Private) Plan Change 16 – Chelsea Mixed Use Overlay Area and Plan.

Birkenhead Residents Association and its members were among the many community organisations opposing Chelsea Sugar Refinery’s private plan change to develop the company’s parkland premises on coastal Birkenhead into a high-density housing estate.

North Shore City Council received more than 500 objections to the proposed 528 unit Chelsea development, which would not only increase traffic flows through Highbury village centre, but would also see the destruction of cherished wildlife reserves around the existing seaside plant.

Independent planning commissioners have taken eight months to reach a decision and produce a report which recommends that the plan change provides a good option for future use of the Chelsea site, but under much tighter regulations and processes than originally sought by Chelsea, and with stricter attention to environmental issues.

Although disappointed at the decision, Birkenhead Residents Association is heartened by the support within the community and the number of opposing submissions. Chairman Harvey White believes that this opposition has played a large role in achieving the significant changes to the plan, such as the requirement that all future activities will need discretionary activity consent, and the requirement for a Comprehensive Development Plan.

But serious concerns still exist over issues such as building height and the high level of intensification of proposed apartments. Mr White said that Birkenhead Residents Association is considering an appeal against the decision.

Commissioners deliver Chelsea land use ruling

Despite the independent commissioner's decision to allow housing on the site, there is still no plan to close the sugar works.DEVELOPMENT VIEW: Despite the independent commissioner’s decision to allow housing on the site, there is still no plan to close the sugar works.

Housing should be allowed at the 120-year-old Chelsea sugar refinery in Birkenhead if the company ceases operation on the site, says a report from independent commissioners.

Allowing significantly higher buildings – up to seven storeys instead of four – in the bulk sugar store area is among the changes backed by the commissioners.

The commissioners say this is the height of the existing bulk sugar store buildings.

The district plan change allows for mainly housing on the site plus some community and business use.

Chelsea’s proposal to change the planning rules and build up to 528 houses attracted more than 500 submissions, mostly in opposition.

Opponents included the Birkenhead Residents Association critical of the ‘planned horrendous housing intensification’, the Auckland Regional Council and an Auckland city community board.

But in its submission, Chelsea says there are no plans to close the refinery and significant investment has been made in new equipment.

About 36 hectares of the 52 hectare site have been conditionally sold and will become a public park once the district plan issues are settled, says its submission.

North Shore City Council’s main concern was the fact the land was zoned for business use, and there is shortage of such land on the Shore.

Council environmental policy and planning manager Trevor Mackie says many of its concerns have been addressed.

Mr Mackie says the new plans are less specific about the location and heights of buildings and provide a more flexible framework.

He says the decision provides for a more comprehensive development plan to be produced should the refinery close.

Mr Mackie says it could be decades before the refinery shuts its doors and it is too early to be too specific about future development.

The previous plan allowed for a maximum of 3200 square metres for business use.

Mr Mackie says now the mix of residential and business will have to be reconsidered taking into account many factors, including the impact on traffic.

Credits

Reprinted with permission: Auckland Now – North Shore Times

Plan Change 16: Submission on behalf of Birkenhead Residents Association

Submission by Bruce Stainton

BEFORE THE NORTH SHORE CITY COUNCIL AT ALBANY UNDER The Resource Management Act 1991

IN THE MATTER OF Proposed plan change no 16 to the North Shore City District Plan

Submission on behalf of Birkenhead Residents Association (BRA) [ Available as a PDF file ]

1.0 Introduction

1.0 My name is Bruce Stainton

1.2 I represent the Birkenhead Residents’ Association (BRA). The original Association has a 30 year history of communications with Chelsea. The Association was re-formed out of community opposition to Private Plan Change 16. The scale of that opposition is reflected in the very large number of opposing submissions to the Change, many from the Birkenhead area.

1.3 The Association is deeply concerned with the adverse effects on the local community of Birkenhead of the proposed policy & rules for redevelopment. Such effects include a partial destruction of the integrity of the historic Chelsea estate that is so important to the Birkenhead community’s well being. The grounds are well-used by the community and the adverse effects beyond the site, in particular traffic, visual effects, and interruption of the ecological corridor are reasonably considered likely outcomes.

1.3.1 Those applying for resource consents; ie: private plan changes interpret well being in economic terms. Well being of a community is also referred to in s5 RMA as social and cultural. The historian Kynan Gentry wrote in Heartlands “our identity and our very sense of authenticity, it seems, are inextricably bound up with the places we claim as ‘ours’. Perhaps this is because place has a more lasting identity than we have, – and because we unswervingly attach ourselves to our identity”. Later in the same chapter, Place, Heritage & Identity, he wrote “the power of place is one of the key reasons that historic preservation has developed.”

1.3.2 It is not therefore surprising, that many who have established themselves in the Birkenhead/Northcote community consider Chelsea Estate as part of their own identity, given Chelsea’s predominant history and culture evident throughout the area. They wish to see not only conservation but also preservation. They strongly support the Chelsea Trust effort to secure the surrounding environment as the only appropriate context for the heritage buildings. They strongly support heritage planning as a key requirement to any redevelopment, which will seek continuing connection between the Refinery buildings and the current estate environment.

1.4 Other submitters who are members of the Association are presenting submissions on some of these matters, for example Mrs Heather Nicholson on traffic impacts and geo hazards.

1.5 My submission shall be examining planning matters.

2.0 Private Plan Change 16

2.1 This plan change relates to the Business 9 zone at Chelsea, being 13.69 ha. of the approximately 50 ha. Chelsea Refinery Estate. I use the term Chelsea for short to also cover both the NZ Sugar Ltd and Chelsea Estate Ltd interests.

2.2 The Chelsea Refinery estate is listed as Category A in the North Shore District Plan. The Plan acknowledges on p.11-8 that “These provisions for the Chelsea Sugar Refinery site at Birkenhead recognise it as a physical resource possessing unique industrial heritage of national and international significance.”

2.3 The Chelsea Sugar refinery is also on the NZ Historic Places Trust register.

2.4 In terms of the Resource Management Act 1991, the Association submits that the original proposed plan change is contrary to S.6(f) and S.17, to the extent that intensive residential housing development will result in significant adverse effects on the site that cannot be avoided, remedied or mitigated. These effects include over-intensive redevelopment of a sensitive historic environment (both buildings and landscape) of considerable integrity, which must be detrimentally affected by large-scale, intensive development.

2.5 In terms of the District Plan, S.6 Managing the Growth and Development of the City, 6.3 Urban Growth Strategy, Policies, states that the objectives will be achieved ‘By enabling a differentiated pattern of residential development to emerge in the built-up areas, ranging from higher density intensive housing adjacent to commercial centres, or along selected main transport routes where appropriate, to lower density housing in areas of high natural and built amenity value.’

2.6 Chelsea’s 13.69 ha. site is not adjacent to a commercial node or a main transport route. The proposed residential intensity of 528 units is therefore excessive and inappropriate. It actually exceeds any other residential density in the City, including the high density zones. This plan change therefore conflicts with the District Council & Regional Council plans and strategic policy.

2.7 It must be kept in mind that much of the rest of the surrounding Chelsea estate is zoned Residential 2A. That is the only position to which the commissioners should have regard. The proposed intensive development cannot therefore be “traded off” against the possibility of the rest of the estate being open space. The conditional sale and purchase agreement with the Chelsea Park Trust relating to the rest of the estate is only a possibility, not a certainty. It is conditional, and one of the conditions is that Chelsea is at liberty to walk away from the agreement if it is not satisfied with the outcome of this planning process. The conditional sale and purchase agreement must therefore be disregarded in planning decision making. If open space was intended to surround this zone it should have been an integral part of this private plan change.

2.8 The Association is mindful of the risk to the agreement with the Trust if opposition to this plan change is effective. It shows the careful assessment of effects of the intensive development of the Refinery and horse paddock have been weighed against the gains of open space in the agreement and found the cost in amenities lost to be too high. Heritage buildings need a context, a setting, to maintain its real value. Intensive development would split the refinery from the setting. Intense development will adversely affect visual, traffic and ecological amenities.

2.9 The Association submission sought that Private Plan Change 16 be rejected. Since then, CSR has produced – without withdrawing the Plan Change – an Amendment to the Change. The process outlined in the Amendment provides expressly for 528 residential units and 3,200 m2 of commercial space. This together with stated heights for areas up to 25m (as appropriate) predicates all report assessments, and negates all of the other conservation criteria values that the policy is otherwise purporting to support. It leaves no room for impartial capacity assessment. There are no or insufficient assessment criteria to override the above express provisions.

2.10 The plan, as amended, while widening the activity status, has withdrawn some of the assessment criteria needed to properly guide a development brief from which a Comprehensive Development Plan could be assessed. I refer to David Truscott’s submission on the Proposed Rule 15.6.2.12 being omitted from the amended plan. We also agree the planning map accompanying the amended plan change is still too directive, ie: in circulation layout, as it limits the brief. In summary, report writers are given an intensive development policy, before they have even considered if it is appropriate for a comprehensive Development Plan, but no other assessment criteria’s or priorities to guide everyone in the assessment process.

2.11 One aspect on visual amenity that I have not noted as mentioned by any other submitter. It is acknowledged that the pine trees and eucalyptus trees around the horse paddock and indeed on other ridges in the estate are old. They are tall and provide a high canopy. If they don’t fall down they will need to be cut down as many are dangerously at the end of their life. Once those woods are felled, the views of many residents and street travellers will open up directly into the horse paddock and the bulk sugar area. Natives and other desirable vegetation will take a generation or three to reach the screening height presently observed. All the proposed possible new buildings will be in full view and will depreciate the heritage aspects further.

2.12 The Association opposes this plans proposals to guide redevelopment of the Chelsea Estate and therefore seeks that the Plan Change and Amendment be rejected.

2.13 The Refinery vows it has no need or plan to close the refinery operation at present. There is time to work through other proposals to get the right balance. Chelsea has been a good citizen and shared the beauty, tranquillity and heritage of its grounds and building with the public, especially the local community. The Association would like to invite Chelsea to engage in dialogue with the Association, to improve the planning policy and rules to be applied if redevelopment is required in the future.

[ Available as a PDF file ]

Proposed Plan Change 16: Chelsea Sugar Refinery Estate

This private plan change by NZ Sugar Company Ltd lays the foundation for the destruction of the unique historic character of the Chelsea Sugar Works and associated grounds, in a bid to erect 528 apartment units in a network of 3 to 8 level buildings.

The potential adverse effects of such a development include:-

  • Ecological Effects
  • Archaeological Loss
  • Heritage Loss
  • Cultural and Identity Loss
  • Effects on Local Infrastructure (e.g. traffic)
  • Effects on Visual Amenity

The plan change fails to address what is an appropriate use for the Chelsea site because it is at odds with Auckland regional planning strategies for residential intensification and in the absence of definitive development timeframes, future suitability of the proposal cannot be assessed.

A number of significant submissions have been received opposing the
plan change, chief amongst them the Auckland Regional Council, the
North Shore City Council and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

The deadline for further submissions has now passed and a hearing to
be convened by Independent Commissioners is currently anticipated in November 2006.