The plan for a $1 billion housing and waterway recreation park at Hamilton's northern gateway could be off to the Environment Court with Fonterra and Affco appealing the green light for the project.
Independent commissioners in March approved Perry Group's private plan change application to change industrial zoning to residential for the Te Awa Lakes development, on 50 hectares of vacant land beside the Waikato River at Horotiu.
But previous objectors, Fonterra, which has a dairy processing plant nearby at Te Rapa, and Affco, which has a meat processing operation across the river at Horotiu, have filed appeals in the Environment Court.
Perry's had planned to start earthworks later this year for the planned 1000-plus mixed type homes and village centre with cafes, restaurants and hotels around lakes-based recreation activities.
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Chief executive Richard Coventry said the company was working through the concerns of the two appellants, hoping to head off court action. It had been in talks with Fonterra for many months already.
"Now more than ever we need to stimulate the economy."
Fonterra's notice of appeal against the plan change approval "in its current form" gives general and specific reasons.
General reasons included that the plan change does not meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations; does not enable the social, economic and cultural wellbeing of the people of Hamilton or the Waikato region; is not the most appropriate way to achieve the objectives of the Hamilton city district plan.
A specific reason was the potential for reverse sensitivity.
The development, with more than 1000 new dwellings and visitor accommodation within the Te Rapa north strategic industrial node, was close to Fonterra's Te Rapa factory.
Established in 1968 well away from the city centre and housing areas, this plant processed more than 7.5m litres of milk a day in the peak season and 325 tonnes of milk powder and cream products a year.
Fonterra said Hamilton City Council's conclusion that any potential for reverse sensitivity effects was appropriately minimised by the plan change provisions was "based on an incorrect understanding of reverse sensitivity".
"The scale and diversity of the Te Rapa dairy factory's manufacturing footprint is critical to Fonterra's operations, both regionally and nationally. It is vital that this site is able to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days year and that these operations are not unduly compromised by complaints or objections from sensitive neighbours."
The risk of disruption to the site operations would be worsened during the peak milk intake period of November and December when spare processing capacity was limited across Fonterra's North Island manufacturing network.
The appeal repeated Fonterra's earlier argument that over time, the additional time and cost involved in restructuring the manufacturing process and network could lead to new and/or reinvestment being directed away from the Te Rapa site.
"These effects of reverse sensitivity have already been experienced by Fonterra across multiple sites throughout the country, where new sensitive activities have been allowed to establish near its manufacturing sites without corresponding reverse sensitivity controls."
Fonterra did not believe the plan change's provisions adequately addressed its reverse sensitivity concerns and wanted amendments made to address them.
Fonterra's appeal also raises concerns about heavier residential traffic increasing the strain on existing transport infrastructure.
Affco's appeal surprised Coventry because the company did not turn up to commissioner hearings, although it was an objector on paper.
Affco chief executive Nigel Stevens told the Herald the company did not appear as it had provided written submissions to the commission, and believed oral presentations of those would unnecessarily lengthen an already extensive hearing process.
Affco wants approval of the plan change to allow for the Perry project overturned.
It said approval of the Perry project is incompatible with existing and future industrial activities and adjacent to the Hamilton city boundary.
A tourist and recreational area was inconsistent with the industrial zoning of the area and unnecessarily created reverse sensitivity issues.
"The decision would have significant adverse effect on current industrial businesses in the area. Affco's view is that the only practical means to avoid such an incompatibility is the retention of an adequate buffer of industrial land ... this cannot be achieved by (the) plan change."
Affco said the decision to allow the plan change failed to provide for the long-term strategic provision of industrial land in the area, which was in relatively short supply.
The plan change also understated the level of demand for prime industrial space in Hamilton and was inconsistent with regional and council land use planning.
It would require existing businesses including Affco to rethink future investment decisions "with potential adverse implications for the economic wellbeing of Hamilton residents, contractors and the overall city".
Perry's plan change application attracted 61 submissions, 42 generally supportive because the development would create an attractive northern gateway to Hamilton and support the Te Awa River cycleway.
The idea of a water park with associated visitor facilities and the likely economic and new job benefits were also attractive said supporters, who believed the proposal was more compatible with the Waikato River environment.