Sunday, July 10, 2016

Mike Butler: The kura and the mushroom farm

A town planning error in Hastings provided a convenient exit for the Ministry of Education in unpopular plans for a kura for the suburb of Havelock North but has caused a substantial risk for a log-established mushroom farm, and regular unpleasant smells for 600 home owners.

A stoush between a retired principal and the government sparked by plans to prefer a Maori-immersion kura over a new primary school for the Hastings suburb of Havelock North (see led to a public meeting in May.

About 200 people crammed the Havelock North Community to hear about the government and the kura. What they heard was about the Te Mata Mushroom Company, odour, and complaints from homeowners in the new Arataki subdivision. (1)

About three weeks before the May meeting, as pressure in the kura row built to bursting point, Katrina Casey of the Ministry of Education suddenly announced that an alternative site for the kura was sought due to concerns about odour from the mushroom farm. (2)

Casey’s announcement came one week after news that “a new report” recommended a 600-metre odour buffer zone and that the site of the proposed kura, the former Arataki Park Motor Camp, was within that zone. (3)

That so-called new report was from Tonkin Taylor and was dated May 28, 2015. The Hastings District Council had been in possession of that report for nearly a year.

The Tonkin Taylor report was a peer review of “Reverse Sensitivity Assessment for Arataki Re-Zoning Proposal”, by Jacobs NZ Ltd, that was published on May 29, 2015.

The May meeting about the kura was a political exercise combining damage control with profile building for a mayor seeking a further term. Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule could take the pressure off Tukituki MP Craig Foss and divert attention to the mushroom farm.

Mr Yule, who chaired the meeting, apologised for the absence of Mr Foss but read a brief statement from him restating the current government position that mushroom farm odour changed everything. The meeting was mostly about the mushroom farm and odour complaints.

Of course, this raised the question of why Hastings planners permitted housing right to the boundary of the mushroom farm when everyone knew people complained about the smell.

Information received this week under a Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act request to the Hastings District Council chief executive Ross McLeod revealed:

1. The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council confirmed that it had received 401 complaints, to May 13 this year against the mushroom company about odour.

2. The Hastings District Council only became aware that separation distances between mushroom farms and residential housing were a good idea and were required in Australia when council staff read the Jacobs report

3. In 2015, based on the recommendations of the Jacobs report (drawing on the Australian guidelines) the council suspended further development planning for the Arataki extension pending resolution of the current issues.

4. The council is at pains to stress (1) that the Te Mata Mushrooms facility currently operates under a consent which specifies there must be no odour over the boundary, and (2) that the company is legally obligated to comply with the terms of its consent.

5. A total of 611 building consents have been issued within a 1000-metre radius from the composting operation up to June 30 this year. These either have been built or started construction.

6. Construction of housing is continuing within 1000-metres of the mushroom farm.

7. Two further building consents have been issued as at June 30, but construction has not commenced.

8. One further building consent application is under consideration, as at June.

We already knew that:

1. The nearest existing dwelling at Arataki is 250 metres from the southwest boundary of the mushroom farm.

2. The existing residential development area allows development to within 200 metres of the boundary.

Odour complaints resulted in the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council taking the mushroom company to court, resulting in a $15,000 fine in April, plus the requirement for the company to submit a new resource consent application.

Te Mata Mushrooms’ consent to discharge to air expired in 2011. A new resource consent, granted in 2012, required full enclosure of the composting process, with appropriate ventilation and a bio-filter, by the March 1 of this year.

The current owner, Michael Whitaker, took over the mushroom farm in 2012.

Arataki was recommended as a new housing area in 1993 and the land was rezoned from Rural 2 to Residential 3 in 1995.

Odour from the mushroom farm, which has been there since 1967, is nothing new. When the proposed extension to Arataki housing was going through a hearings process in May 1995, the former owners of the mushroom farm, P.J. and J.C. Hawley, objected to the lack of a permanent buffer between proposed urban area and rural activities.

They clearly told the hearings commissioners that the odour could be detected well beyond the proposed boundary.

The planning report to the hearings committee, May 28 and 29, 1995, said that it was debatable whether pushing the boundary back a further 150 metres and planting a barrier would make any difference.

The report of hearings commissioner’s meeting, dated May 29, 1995, reveals that the independent hearings commissioners included Mr P. Newby whose son Mr M. Newby was appearing on behalf of an interested party, Lansdale Development Ltd. (4)

That report had further details about odour from the mushroom farm.

Submitter Mrs N.P. Grant told the commissioners of the regular unpleasant and distinctive smell coming from Te Mata Mushrooms. Another submitter, Mr B.L. Gestro, said he had forwarded a complaint about the smell to the regional council.

The Hastings council’s policy manager of resource management, Mr M. Theelen, told the hearing, when asked, that there did not appear to be any record of complaints about the smell.


1.Mushroom farm solution to cost, HB Today, May 12, 2016.
2. Odour problems force ministry to explore new relocation sites for Hastings Maori immersion school,
3. Planned kura in odour buffer zone, HB Today, April 13, 2016.
4. Report of hearings commissioner’s meeting, May 29, 1995


paul scott said...

Havelock Council reports internal =
Under the mushroom farm's resource consent, odours are not permitted to leave that Tec Mata property.
Anyone can see that consent implies that the owners just have to learn how to make wind blow in a different direction.
Our Resource Consent Warriors/ Officers are highly trained, and not subject to outside social pressure. They have qualifications don't we know.

And anyway, why should Council staff read reports, when they are busy with Resource consent invoices.
Just because everybody else knows mushroom farming causes smells doesn't mean our highly qualified bureaucrats should have common knowledge. That's not what Consent officialdom is about.
And if we can't find 401 complaints records how would you expect us to know about nepotism in zoning in 1995.
And anyway the mushrooms are genetically modified, and also if the owner goes out of business we will sue him for lack of jobs.

And that Mr. Butler, we looked him up long ago, he leaves his lights on late at night in his office, and we know he does not approve of race based privilege so there.

Ray S said...

Most councils are mushroom farms, certainly spawns of entirely different species.

John Threlfall said...

One commentator suggested that the mushroom farm be required to produce their compost off-site as it is the composting process that produces the smell. Sounds sensible and economically feasible.

Bob Culver said...

With the likelihood of combat classes, hakas thundering out day and night, footloose roaming the streets, and untraceable strangers from far and wide irregularly visiting the affluent suburb at all hours, the mushroom farm would be my preference. Pity though if a new school for locals is lost.
Cannot help but sympathise with the farmers. If the locals were prudent they would keep them well supplied with ripe material.

Dave said...

Like most Maori business ventures just wait for it to fall over, thats after a few bail outs by the taxpayer