A group of Te Puna residents are on a mission to put the brakes on a massive clean fill dumping project opposite their lifestyle blocks.
A resource consent application, received by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council in October 2018 from the Gee Tong Trust, proposes to dump 436,000 cubic metres of clean fill over 20 years on a slope at rurally-zoned property 109 Clarke Rd.
However, Te Puna Rd residents who live directly across a gully from the proposed site say they have had a taste of what the project would hold if consented, and they don't like it.
They say there was a previous round of dumping between mid-2017 and November 2018, claiming the works were so noisy that some had to leave the property and clouds of dust "penetrated" their homes.
But the applicant landowner says he is not doing anything wrong and is following due process.
The residents say they were not notified of the project and first viewed the consent application on January 9.
The application listed no affected parties and the council ruled the consent could be non-notified.
According to the application, the dirt would be excavated from projects and site developments within the Tauranga City and Western Bay of Plenty area.
The application proposed the expected starting date would be September 2018 with the works wrapping up in October 2038. The proposal includes plans to install settlement ponds, contour the land and cover with grass.
The Bay of Plenty Times understands no abatement notices were issued or enforcement action was taken by the Bay of Plenty Regional or Western Bay of Plenty District Councils in response to the previous depositing of clean fill.
Te Puna Rd resident Elly Nederhoff claimed the last round of dumping was unbearable.
"Abysmal dust ... covered and penetrated our homes".
Another Te Puna Rd resident, Drew Cowley, said the earthworks produced "continuous noise all day" that impaired his wife's ability to work from home.
"There were bulldozers going, tailgates banging ... she had to physically leave the property to get some sanity and respite from the constant noise."
He also claims demand dropped for his Airbnb accommodation, while dump trucks clogged up the narrow rural road.
Clarke Rd resident and business owner Ginny Ford said she is "very concerned" about the proposed dump site.
She said the land was a flood plain with a small river running through it, with locals calling it the "Te Puna Lake", prompting concerns for the environment and wildlife.
She was also concerned about the increased traffic, increased noise and dust.
Landowner and applicant Gee Tong said in a written statement the proposed activity at his property was permitted according to the zone it was located in.
He said he was planning to recontour his property to make it more suitable for farming or horticulture by importing clean fill material and that he was following the due process in his application with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
"Until the consent process is finalised, I can not comment further."
Bay of Plenty Regional Council acting general manager of regulatory services, Alex Miller, said the application was on hold, pending a request for more information to determine the environmental impact, whether there were any affected persons and whether it should be publicly notified.
Miller said a member of the public alerted the regional council to the previous round of dumping.
Clean fill can be disposed of as a permitted activity in the rural zone for Western Bay of Plenty District Council, but it is subject to conditions that ensure the impact is less than minor.
"In the case of 109 Clarke Road, it was identified that these conditions could not be met due to a range of issues, like the topography of the land, and management of sediment and stormwater."
Miller said the council did not advise neighbours of applications unless they were identified as an affected person in accordance with the Resource Management Act.
The regional council was only assessed the environmental effects, not other issues such as noise or increased traffic.
Western Bay of Plenty District Council group manager policy planning and regulatory services, Rachael Davie, said part of the project site was in a floodable area, which required consent for five cubic metres or more of earthworks, while other parts were non-floodable and were a permitted activity.
She said the council's District Plan had noise-limits of 50 decibels for continuous noise between 7am and 10pm from Monday to Friday and 7am to 6 pm on Sunday.
Dust was controlled by the regional council.
Consent would be required if these limits were exceeded, but other "nuisance effects" such as "vibration, traffic movements, vehicle access, hours of operation and visual amenity" were not limited.
The district council was proposing changes to the District Plan to control these effects.