A plan change that could convert 40ha of rural land to a site for timber processing and a large rail yard has been appealed.
Rangitīkei District Council wants to rezone 217ha of land between SH1, Makirikiri Rd and the main trunk rail line from rural to industrial.
It was prompted by interest from Rangitīkei Forestry Holdings in establishing a bioforestry operation and logging yard in the area near Marton Junction.
Submissions were made and heard by independent commissioner Robert Schofield in June last year. His decision was released in August.
He zoned only 40ha of the 217ha industrial, subject to additional objectives, policies and rules.
Fraser Auret has appealed the decision. His Fraser Auret Racing business trains horses on land that was formerly Marton Racecourse.
His submission said thoroughbred racehorses were very sensitive to noise and dust and keeping them there would be incompatible with nearby industry.
His appeal was joined by the Interested Residents of Marton group (IROM). Neither Auret nor resident Simon Loudon wanted to comment on their stance.
The matter is awaiting mediation in the Environment Court this year, Rangitīkei District Council Peter Beggs said, and the council wants the rezoning to suit everyone.
"The council is committed to ensuring the Marton Rail Hub is beneficial for the community and iwi, and is working closely with all parties to address concerns raised in the appeal to the District Plan Change," he said.
Also in August the project got $9.1 million funding from Government's Covid-19 recovery fund, administered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Provincial Development Unit.
The council is to add $225,000 funding for the plan change and $525,000 for road and rail access. Rangitīkei Forestry Holdings is to contribute $500,000 and provide a debarker.
NZ Bio Forestry wants to use world-leading technology to convert wood product into bioplastic at the site, and a sawmill and plywood factory have also been talked of. The rail siding would be a public one that other companies can use.
The project is directed by council's Jess McIlroy, with Paul Bayly as project manager. It has a board of eight, chaired by Beggs.
The others are councillors Dave Wilson and Nigel Belsham and mayor Andy Watson. They are joined by Te Rūnanga o Nga~Wairiki Ngāti Apa chairman Pahia Turia and advisers Catriona McKay from the Provincial Development Unit, engineer Michael Kerr and Dr David Warburton, a former CE of Whanganui District Council and Auckland Transport.
Many Rangitīkei people are keen for the jobs the complex will provide, and there has also been huge interest from companies, Watson said.
"It's incredibly exciting."
The council has commissioned WSP Opus to make a comprehensive development plan. It will consider environmental factors, usage and impact and is about two months away from completion. It may set the appellants' concerns at rest.
"They may well say you have answered our concerns, and they could stop there or go to an Environment Court hearing."
The council continues to work on the project, while it awaits the WSP plan.
"That's not to say that we are doing nothing at the moment. There's a lot of work going on with KiwiRail and understanding the needs of businesses," Watson said.