A Whanganui business says a proposed zone change would prevent them from expanding its operations and employing more staff.
McDonald Concrete Group (MCG) has been operating from its Murray St premises for the past five years and manufactures everything from dog bowls and garden pavers to 25,000-litre water tanks.
Land at the rear of the premises in Kaikokopu Rd is zoned for industrial use but a proposed plan change by Whanganui District Council would turn the land into a rural zone.
Manager Ross McDonald said it was frustrating because the business moved from its former premises in Heads Rd in 2015 to its present site because it offered room for expansion.
"Our former site had become unsuitable due to both its size and proximity to a residential area," Mcdonald said.
"We chose our present site because it had the potential to operate effectively and allowed expansion scope without the alienation of residential and community facilities."
The proposed changes to the land categories for the Kaikokopu Rd lots are part of the council's Plan Change 54 which is phase 9 of a review of the Whanganui District Plan aimed to consolidate industrial zones into a single general industrial zone as well as amend the zoning of some properties for greater consistency with current and surrounding uses.
Whanganui District Council's strategy and finance committee approved the proposed Plan Change 54 in July this year and MCG has made a submission to the proposal.
McDonald presented the submission at a hearing with independent commissioners earlier this month.
He asked why the zoning change was initiated when it had been identified that Whanganui had a shortage of industrial land and businesses wanting to develop it.
The council's principal planner Gavin McCullagh said the industrial zone and rules in the Whanganui District Plan had been reviewed as part of the rolling review required by the Resource Management Act.
"The sites proposed for rezoning on Kaikokopu Rd have difficulties in servicing with infrastructure and include an overland flow path at the base of steep slopes," McCullagh said.
"Additionally, due to earlier decisions to approve development [residential use and a place of worship] at 60 Kaikokopu Rd, this site is not available for industrial development."
McCullagh said Lot 1 (the land MCG was hoping to use) has been isolated by the development at 60 Kaikokopu Rd.
"It is not easily serviceable by infrastructure, it is part of an overland flow path below steep slopes and it does not directly adjoin the McDonald site."
McDonald believes the flow path and infrastructure concerns should not provide barriers to expansion. He said sewerage treatment systems are an option and cited the newly developed JDM sites on Brunswick Rd as an example.
"Our current site has large ditch drains running beside it. On a day-to-day basis one is dry and the other has a constant flow," he said.
"It is also worth noting that this site was unaffected by the 2015 floods, which engulfed many sites in Whanganui including the lower block of Victoria Ave."
McDonald said MCG has consulted with neighbouring businesses as well as the owner of 60 Kaikokopu Rd and none had raised objections to the planned expansion of their business.
"The owner of the property at 60 Kaikokopu Rd indicated that he would be willing to allow us access through his property," he said.
"When we moved here the flat areas were designated for factories, yards and storage, while the hills and valley were planned for use as a landfill site," he said.
"The flat areas are still suitable for these uses and beekeepers have expressed interest in using the hills for hives and building a honey processing plant on a flat area."
McDonald said MCG is a long-established Whanganui business that began as Walter Larsen & Sons Ltd in 1932 and his parents Pamela and Ian McDonald purchased the company in 1992.
"They revitalised the business and increased the product lines," he said.
"Now we're experiencing another rapid growth phase and we want to keep growing and employ more local people. We can't expand if there is a lifestyle block next to our business.
"If we can't expand in Whanganui, we might have to look elsewhere. We really don't want to do that."
McDonald said his company has asked the council to retain the general industrial zoning in Kaikokopu Rd.
"They did listen and I really hope a workable solution can be found," he said.
McCullagh said he will now make a formal reply to the commissioners who will prepare a decision report which is expected in mid-December 2021.
"We are scheduled to take that decision report to council for consideration at the first full Council meeting of 2022 in February," he said.
"If the council accepts the commissioners' report and endorses it the plan change will become operative."
The majority of industrial activities in Whanganui were currently located around Heads Rd West, Heads Rd East, Mill Rd, London St, Aramoho, Eastown and Putiki. Research conducted on the demand for industrial land from 2018 to 2019 revealed a 30-year growth demand of 36.2 hectares of industrial land.