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Nelson kitesurfers concerned about logs barging in

Nelson Evening Mail:
A plan to barge logs from Rabbit Island to Port Nelson has some major hurdles ahead if it is to get over the start line.

The Nelson City Council gave only a lukewarm response to the plan presented yesterday by antisouthern link lobby group Nelsust, which is asking the Nelson and Tasman councils and the port company to commission a fuller study into the feasibility of barging logs.

The plan would involve diverting trucks carrying export logs from the south of Nelson to a purpose-built depot at Rabbit Island, from where they would be barged to logging ships in Nelson.

Port Nelson, the logging industry, and a pro-waterfront lobby group say it would not solve the problem of heavy trucks around Rocks Rd and Tahuanui.

Port Nelson chief executive Martin Byrne and Nelson Forests Limited chief executive Lees Seymour believed the barging system would be inefficient, uneconomic, impractical and would add significant costs to the transport chain with little, if any, real benefit other than putting current export markets at risk through marginalising the profitability of this trade.

Nelson Waterfront Association chairman Jeremy Matthews said freight trucks and not just logging trucks were the problem.

‘‘The waterfront is mauled every day by large trucks. It’s being hammered by logging trucks but they’re only part of the problem,’’ he said.

Based on the figures included in the arterial traffic study, 6 per cent of the traffic on Rocks Rd at peak times is heavy traffic. Mr Byrne and Mr Seymour said a rough estimate was that logging trucks represented just over 1 per cent of total traffic.

Mr Matthews said it was not possible to ‘‘provide a quarter-cure for cancer’’.

‘‘This idea would not help – it would make the situation worse, but at least they are thinking about it,’’ Mr Matthews said.

Several councillors questioned yesterday how much research had been done on the project while councillor Eric Davy felt it was being used as a stalling tactic prior to the release of the final stage of the arterial traffic study.

Councillors Mike Ward and Ruth Copeland felt the plan warranted closer investigation.
It has also gained the support of Nelson-based Labour list MP Maryan Street, who said it could be money well spent.

‘‘Instead of being rejected out of hand by those who are fixated on one solution only for our waterfront difficulties, this should be considered,’’ Ms Street said.

Nelsust convenor Peter Olorenshaw said the plan was not intended as a ‘‘scientific proposal’’ and that all it was trying to do was provide a solution to Nelson’s transport challenges, rather than have communities pitted against each other.

The Victory and Tahunanui communities were each opposed to the two remaining options of the traffic study: a new road through Victory or four-laning of Rocks Rd and Waimea Rd.

Councillor Ian Barker said the logging industry and its customers would be the most dramatically affected but their views had not been taken into consideration.

Waimea Contract Carriers transport manager David Croy said the ‘‘big flaw’’ in Nelsust’s idea was that large volumes of timber came into and through Nelson from Blenheim and the Whangamoa forests every day, not only to the port but to sawmills at Eves Valley and in Stoke, and the wood chip mill in Richmond.

‘‘I can see their reasoning for Rabbit Island, which certainly makes a lot of sense for any wood on this side of Nelson, but then with the massive amount of timber that’s going to come through that side, they’re still going to have to come through there [Nelson and Rocks Rd] anyway.’’

Nelsust had consulted with various people to search for any ‘‘red flag issues’’, Mr Olorenshaw said.

‘‘The harbourmaster said using the Blind Channel would impact on kitesurfers using the area. He also said the size of the vessels proposed would mean they would have to be pilot-certified skippers,’’ Mr Olorenshaw said.

Owner-manager of Kitesurf Nelson Shane Anderson said Blind Channel represented about 80 per cent of the area allocated for use by kitesurfers. Not being able to use it would have a huge impact on the sport which recognised the channel as one of the best spots in New Zealand for kitesurfing.

‘‘It’s an out-there plan but I guess they have to try these things,’’ Mr Anderson said.

Councillor Rachel Reese said that ‘‘in order for the boat to move faster’’ the Tasman District Council – Port Nelson’s other shareholder with the city council – would have to have a say.

Council chief executive Keith Marshall said Nelsust would be advised to make a submission on the idea through the annual plan process.

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