Public feedback on Refining NZ’s proposal to bring bigger crude oil cargoes to Marsden Point has set the stage for a series of expert studies of the harbour and any potential impacts of the proposal.
The refinery is proposing that around half of all crude oil be transported on ships capable of carrying around a million barrels at a time, a move that would mean fewer crude ships at Marsden Point and require some dredging to allow for heavier cargoes. The first in a series of information sessions were held on the 9th and 10th of March and gave the public the opportunity to speak directly with Refining NZ and independent experts.
Describing the sessions as essential to the consultation process, Refining NZ CEO Sjoerd Post said they had allowed the refinery to test the proposal with different groups in and around Whangarei.
“Having the independent experts available to talk through their areas of interest (hydrology, ecology, geomorphology, marine mammals, and recreation) continued the dialogue with Tangata Whenua, special interest groups and residents, and helped broaden understanding of the proposal.
“We received a variety of views, including full support for the proposal, but also comment around the choice of location for dredged material, relief that much of dredging will be outside of the harbour (e.g. Fairway Shoal), the importance of Mair Bank, and the continuing role of the refinery as a major employer in the region. There was also a clear message to the Company and the independent experts that the science behind their studies needs to be solid and that their findings should ‘tell-it-like-it-is’.”
Post noted that the feedback was especially useful for the independent experts who could now embark on their studies armed with local data about the cultural, environmental and recreational values in and around the harbour: “The feedback has thrown up areas to be explored further, including a key question about whether Fairway Shoal might contain material from previous dredging further up the harbour.
“The response we had from the first of our drop-in sessions augurs well for the next stage of consultation which will be to report back the findings of the independent experts.”