The application by Opua boatyard owner Doug Schmuck to establish a private marina at Walls Bay has been declined, November 6, following extended hearings by NRC commissioners.
Submitters opposed are relieved that this tranquil area of the Opua Basin has not been given over to inappropriate development, and remains, as it should, as an offset or counter-balance to Far North Holdings' extensive commercial developments south of Opua wharf along the Kawakawa river mouth.
Of greater significance was the result of the scientific testing required for the application, which identified serious levels of heavy metal contamination of the Walls Bay foreshore fanning out from where the boatyard access slipway meets the Coastal Marine Area (CMA).
The evidence suggests it is likely that Walls Bay reserve has also been contaminated. Some extracts from the findings of the commissioners:
The report at paragraph 239 states: Further sediment sampling is required to understand the full extent and depth of the contaminated sediments.'
At paragraph 241: 'In our view, remediation of the polluted sediments by removal from the CMA and disposal at a land-based facility should be undertaken as soon as possible.' At paragraph 187: 'In our view, the soil in the reserve adjacent to the slipway is likely to have been contaminated by activities undertaken on the slipway.'
As regards boatyards compliance, the reports states at paragraph 324: 'The evidence also shows that the applicant cannot comply with some of the key conditions of the existing consents to avoid adverse effects, such as avoiding direct discharge to the CMA, undertaking activities on an impervious yard surface, and using screens when waterblasting.'
As regards to compliance monitoring, the report states at paragraph 327: 'Enforcement action by both FNDC and the NRC has been taken to prevent these adverse effects, but has not been followed through on the basis of enabling the applicant to continue to operate his 'small' boatyard business and in the hope that the applicant can, at some point, obtain the authorisations necessary to undertake activities within the reserve and comply with the conditions of consent and the 2010 Abatement Notice. This has proven to be the unachievable over a period of nearly 20 years; and in our view it is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.'
The above issues are summarised in the sentence from paragraph 325 of the 64-page report and decision: 'We consider that poor management of discharges to air and land over more than 20 years and a lack of consent compliance and enforcement action have resulted in contamination of the surrounding land and the CMA.' His applications for further discharge consents were also declined.
There is much that requires further comment, but it is sufficient at this time to note that none of this would have occurred had Mr Schmuck simply restricted his activities to his private boatyard site. In combination with the recent Court of Appeal decision quashing easements to allow boatyard work on the reserve, logic would suggest he make a fresh application for discharge consents to operate on his own site.