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City Council approves Port noise agreement

13 October 2006

A multi-party agreement to resolve concerns in Lyttelton about noise from the port area has the support of Christchurch City Council and the Environment Court will now be asked to consider a change to the town planning rules to give effect to the agreement.

The issue goes back to 2004, when a resident and Lyttelton Port of Christchurch (LPC) objected to new rules about port noise in the Banks Peninsula District Plan. The rules prohibited new dwellings and additions to existing dwellings in areas close to the Port and required acoustic treatment for much of the remaining parts of Lyttelton. Other groups also got involved in the appeals and a mediator was appointed by the Environment Court. More than 20 meetings have been held in the last year or so, leading to the agreement.

If approved by the Environment Court, the agreement would see a Port Liaison Committee set up to continue addressing port noise issues. It would have representatives of the Lyttelton community, Lyttelton Port of Christchurch, the City Council, port users and the regional council ECan.

The mediated agreement includes a plan to both manage noise from the port over time and treat homes in areas identified as potentially affected by port noise. LPC would pay up to $60,000 each to noise-proof affected homes to ensure internal sound levels were satisfactory. This provides a strong incentive for LPC to manage its noise because increases in port noise in the future could result in more properties being eligible for noise–proofing.

A computer model of Lyttelton port noise has been set up for LPC by an independent acoustic consultant in accordance with the NZ Port Noise Standard. The model has identified noise affected properties and these have been agreed between the parties. It is expected between 31 and 39 homes would be given noise insulation treatments over 10 years. Owners of homes who accepted the noise-proofing would agree to a no-complaints covenant which would also be attached to the land title and similarly bind future owners. Owners of properties not already identified could apply to the Port Liaison Committee which would then assess the property and recommend if noise-proofing funds should be allocated.

The district plan’s controls about what can be built on properties within the noise affected area would be changed. Specifically, the changes would see:

● Lifting of the prohibitions on residential development in the Inner Noise Control Area near the Port and the removal of the Outer Noise Area which covered the majority of Lyttelton.
● Their replacement with new objectives, policies and rules designed to generally discourage the intensification of residential activities and other noise sensitive activities in close proximity to the port but which allow limited additions to existing dwellings and provide some concessions for residential use within the heritage buildings on Norwich Quay.
● The development and running of a Noise Mitigation Plan setting out situations where LPC would pay for acoustic treatment of homes. If a property became severely affected in the future, LPC would be required to make a purchase offer.
● A Noise Management Plan to manage the amount of noise produced by LPC operations, set up a Port Liaison Committee to oversee the preparation and running of both the noise management and noise mitigation plans
● A deed signed by all parties which, among other things, sets out LPC’s responsibilities and commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Port Liaison Committee.

The District Plan changes will now be publicly notified and any feedback will be considered before any final decision is made by the Environment Court.

All parties supporting Lyttelton agreement

A Lyttelton community agreement about management of port noise is being supported by the parties.

Christchurch City Council recently agreed to support the agreement and send it to the Environment Court asking that the town planning rules be changed to reflect the agreement.

Christchurch Mayor Garry Moore congratulated the parties, saying the arrangement is a real win-win. “The Council, city and region have a tremendous stake in ensuring our port can continue to provide efficient services for shipping lines, exporters, importers and other port users,” he says.
“It is a vital part of our economy and I’m extremely pleased that this agreement guarantees this role while also creating a mechanism for the port company and town to discuss issues and work on solutions. For the townsfolk it means they will have much more surety about what development can take place and they have a formal system for dealing with issues. Everyone involved in getting to this point deserves our thanks.”

Linda Pringle, one of a group of Lyttelton residents, says, “We are extremely happy with the outcome and it was probably the best result we think we could have achieved. It took a long time to get there but that was because we needed to consider all possibilities and make sure it worked with the district plan rules.

“We think it’s something that works for the best interests of the wider community of Lyttelton, not just our own, because those residents that were involved were a cross-section of people in Lyttelton who would have been affected in different ways.”

“We believe the process has gone a long way to establishing a working relationship with the port staff.”

LPC Chief Executive Peter Davie says, "With the continued growth in the port, especially container volumes, we are acutely aware of the need to manage levels of port noise and subsequent impacts on our neighbours. This month we have commissioned a third container crane and in the future we expect larger ships to call which will increase trade and require increased cargo handling capacity, berthage and storage areas.

"Our commitment to acoustic mitigation is an essential component of this new agreement. The agreement will ensure we continue to be a world-class port and a good corporate citizen. I am delighted to see the different parties coming together in constructive consultative discussion to find an amicable solution and hope to see this successful strategy used for other community issues."

Ian Knewstubb, a Sumner resident who owns the British Hotel and Lyttelton Times buildings on Norwich Quay, says, “Compromises were made by all parties out of necessity. The package is a way forward from the confrontational approach of resolving issues in the past. Mediation was a useful process of getting the parties face-to-face and resolving the issues.

“This was a big plus, and from a personal perspective as owner of a heritage building on Norwich Quay, the allowance of the residential uses in the first floor of buildings located on the seaward side of Norwich Quay was also a big plus and a significant shift by the port.

“Going forward, the establishment of a noise management plan and a Port Liaison Committee will enable the development of an open and transparent practical working relationship between the community and the port. However, it will require ongoing goodwill.”

Bob Parker, the city councillor elected from the peninsula wards, says the agreement marks a real step forward. “It’s a good commonsense outcome. Lyttelton people accept and frankly enjoy the fact they’re part of a working port; it’s what gives the community its edge and uniqueness,” he says.

“We now have a potential planning solution that allows both the community and port company to co-exist in a way that need not interfere with the lives of either party. Everybody knows where they stand and it will no longer be an issue. It means people can get on with their lives.”

Vern Goodwin, a noise expert for the Ministry of Health, is the Ministry's adviser on environmental noise and chaired Standards New Zealand’s committee which produced the port noise standard, NZS 6809:1999. He provided independent advice to the Lyttelton mediation committee, had advised the former district council on the noise provisions appropriate for its district plan and appeared as a witness for the public health service which had been the major submitter on port noise apart from the LPC.

He says the proposed settlement follows the lead of "polluter pays" type settlements of the Auckland Airport and  Port Chalmers district plan proceedings and is probably the best solution under the unique circumstances of this case to sustainably manage the long-term needs of  both the port and the people who live nearby.

From  John Cleaver, Lyttelton Residents' Association.
Captain John Cleaver from the Lyttelton Residents Association believes the noise agreement is a big improvement on what previously existed, and it was on this basis that the Lyttelton residents association signed it.  However Lyttelton Residents association is disappointed the heritage buildings on Norwich Quay are excluded from access to the same noise proofing funds as other properties in the affected area, and believe this may create obstacles in the revitalisation of this part of Lyttelton.  The residents association hopes the agreement will lead the way for a better relationship between the Port company and local residents, and believe there would be considerable local support to see the role of the proposed Port Liason committee to be expanded to included consideration of all issues in addition to those of noise.

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