A CHICKEN and egg situation.
That is how one commissioner described proposed upgrades to a Southland meat processor discussed at a consent hearing in Invercargill on Tuesday.
Alliance Group has applied to renew three Environment Southland consents that expired in December last year.
On the first day of the three-day hearing, concerns over the timing of plant upgrades worth millions of dollars and the duration of consents were raised by various parties.
Consent would allow Alliance’s Mataura meat processing plant to take and use water from the Mataura River for cooling and processing purposes and discharge cooling water and wastewater into the river.
It asked for a 35-year term for all replacement consents as well as permission to use an existing weir for the damming and diversion of water for the same period.
Questions from commissioners tackled the impacts of consent activities, planned and old upgrades as well as cultural impacts.
Evidence showed $51 million was spent across seven plants to address critical risks in the past five years, while $85 million was required to be spent to operate in a safe and sustainable manner.
Alliance Group lawyer Stephen Christensen argued the timing of planned upgrades was appropriate. It was agreed the consent activity effects were not minor.
However, the effects of bringing upgrades forward from the planned 15 years would be negligible, Mr Christensen said.
He said it was not required to do them, but chose to.
Given the financial investment, a short-consent term was not desired by the company.
“If it doesn’t have that security, maybe it will make a different choice.”
Commissioner Sharon McGarry said it was a chicken and egg situation in that the same was true for them in considering the application.
“To me, it is the upgrading that gives us the certainty to give you a long consent term going forward.”
Mr Christensen told the commissioners of the plant’s economic and social importance to Southland.
During public consultation, he said upgrade plans had been well received and, after consulting Hokonui Runanga, Alliance decided to reduce the replacement consent term to 25 years.
Planning consultant Ian Mayhew’s report for the hearing recommended a period of 10 years be set with conditions.
Evidence from Alliance stated that term was not realistic.