A big fruit-growing firm has hit out at the Far North District Council, saying it's shifting the goalposts to deny the company its legal victory against a proposed waste transfer station next door to its Kerikeri fruit depot.
However, the council says the proposed change to its District Plan had been on the cards for years and has nothing to do with the row over the waste station.
Late last year the FNDC gave Northland Waste the green light to build a transfer station on Waipapa Rd, saying it had no choice but to issue the certificate of compliance because the proposal met the conditions of the rural production zone.
In April this year Turner and Growers, which owns the Kerifresh depot, went to the High Court at Whangarei in a bid to stop the recycling station being built next door.
The court threw out the certificate of compliance, saying the FNDC could not have carried out a proper assessment based on the information supplied by Northland Waste. One of the failings, Turners and Growers claimed, was that the FNDC failed to assess whether the waste station would comply with the air quality chapter of the District Plan.
In the latest development Turner and Growers has hit out at the FNDC for trying to remove the air quality chapter from its District Plan.
Turner and Growers fears that if Northland Waste were to reapply for a certificate of compliance under the modified District Plan it would be granted, and Kerifresh could be forced to shut down due to strict food safety regulations for fruit exports.
''Plan Change 14 is clearly designed to deny Turners and Growers the fruits of its successful high court litigation and to enable Northland Waste to establish a waste transfer station on Waipapa Rd,'' lawyer Bronwyn Carruthers said in a letter to the FNDC.
However, the FNDC said its proposal was unrelated to the waste transfer station issue. It aimed to streamline the way the FNDC and the Northland Regional Council administered the Resource Management Act.
Spokesman Richard Edmondson said the FNDC had never issued a resource consent under Chapter 12.6 (Air) of the District Plan, and the question of why the plan had an air chapter had been raised for a number of years. The need for a resource consent under the chapter was triggered only if an NRC air discharge consent was needed.
The NRC agreed it was a double-up so the FNDC was proposing to remove the chapter and insert new assessment criteria in other parts of the plan.
"The proposal is about removing duplication of processes, not relaxing rules governing air discharges in the district,'' Mr Edmondson said.
The change would mean the council did not have to consider air discharges when assessing a certificate of compliance for activities that complied with the District Plan - but anyone proposing an activity involving air discharges would have to make sure it complied with the Regional Air Quality Plan and get a discharge-to-air consent from the NRC if it didn't.
In its submission against Plan Change 14, Turners and Growers said it was "extremely disappointed'' it was not consulted about the proposal, when the Pork Industry Board and the New Zealand Institute of Horticulture were.
Air quality rules were necessary because of the ``peculiar nature'' of the Far North's District Plan, which was entirely effects-based and did not limit the kinds of activities allowed in land-use zones.
Ironically, an attempt by the Far North District Council to do just that failed earlier this year.
Plan Change 8, which sought to limit industrial and commercial development along Waipapa Rd and Kerikeri Rd, was rejected by independent commissioners after an outcry from property owners.