The Northland Regional Council has granted a resource consent for the commercial extraction of kauri resin and wax from approximately 10 per cent of the 4000ha-plus Kaimaumau wetland.
Auckland-based Resin & Wax Holdings Ltd applied to the council last year for a raft of consents needed for the staged extraction of resin and wax from 400ha of wetland peat that forms part of an almost 950ha block (Mekerene) now owned by Ngai Takoto.
Colin Dall, the NRC's group manager — regulatory services, said initially extraction was proposed over an area of up to 5ha annually, increasing to 20ha a year if the operation reached full production.
The non-notified consent had been granted because, given the extensive conditions imposed, any adverse effects on the environment would be "no more than minor".
The consented area excluded Department of Conservation-managed wetlands to the north, and Kaimaumau's scientific reserve, neither of which would be affected.
"A large part of the property involved is already modified due to past activities, however the applicant will be re-establishing the more ecologically significant areas of existing indigenous vegetation, and will also be taking special measures to minimise any adverse effects on any threatened species in the areas they'll be working in," Mr Dall said.
Most of the peat removed would be returned to the wetland once the resin and wax had been extracted.
"The peat shrinks by about 10 per cent as a result of the resin and wax extraction process, after which it will be re-wetted, returned to roughly the same area it was taken from, topped up with soil and sand and then reinstated with previously stripped topsoil," he added.
Extraction would be confined to places previously disturbed by Kaurex, which mined peat there in the 1980s, and by subsequent farming operations. Later stages of the proposed new works would include some areas of burnt shrubland.
A total of 404ha was covered by the consents, with 107ha to be restored with indigenous vegetation. Ngai Takoto approved of the applicant's plans, and was keen to ensure future productive use of its property.
The development would provide some land suitable for activities including livestock farming and horticultural enterprises, and any kauri logs and stumps excavated during the peat extraction would be put aside for use by Ngai Takoto."
Relatively flat, the land involved comprised series of low sand ridges interspersed with peat soils generally two to five metres deep. It adjoins the Motutangi wetland to the north, Lake Waikaramu to the east, Kaimaumau Road to the south and farmland to the west.
Mr Dall said that if extraction was undertaken continuously, the consented operations could be completed over about eight years, although, following discussions with the applicant, a consent term of 20 years (to October 31, 2038) was considered appropriate, to allow sufficient time for setting up the processing plant and providing adequate security for investors.
The various consents allow the drainage of land, vegetation clearance and earthworks, taking and use of surface water, damming and diverting surface water (and installing associated structures), and discharging stormwater. They do not authorise any taking of groundwater from the Aupouri aquifer.
Consent conditions include a $20,000 bond and detailed requirements for a range of measures to ensure appropriate ecological, archaeological and cultural protection. Those included a requirement for management plans for ecological monitoring, earthworks and revegetation.
Full details of both the consent application and decision are available at www.nrc.govt.nz/consentdecisions
However, even with the regional council consents, the applicant must obtain a Crown permit before any extraction can begin, because kauri resin and wax are legally classed as minerals, so require a Crown mining permit.
He says a previous mining licence covering an area of 1450ha, including the newly-consented area, expired in July last year.
"An application for a new permit is currently being processed separately by New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, which is part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment," Mr Dall said.