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Future Use of the Chelsea Sugar Refinery Site


28 March 2006

Heritage Protection and Future Use of the Chelsea Sugar Refinery Site
Statement made by Bernard Duignan, General Manager,
New Zealand Sugar Company Limited (Chelsea Sugar)

Residents on Auckland’s North Shore were today informed of a proposed plan change by the North Shore City Council to manage potential future uses of the Chelsea Estate, Birkenhead, in a way that will protect the outstanding qualities of the landscape and provide for on-going uses of the refinery buildings.

There are no plans for closure of the refinery. The Chelsea Sugar refinery in Birkenhead is a strong business and will continue to operate for the foreseeable future. The company has consistently invested in the improvement of its assets and business to ensure that it remains efficient and competitive.

The plan change has been introduced at the request of the owners of the land, Chelsea Estates (NZ) Pty Ltd – a division of CSR Ltd, which has owned the land for more than 100 years.

If refinery operations were to be relocated at a future date, Chelsea Estate’s owners wish to secure the value of the site and the heritage future of the land and its historic buildings.

Chelsea recognises the significance of the site to the Auckland public and want to ensure that the amenity and ecological attributes of the land, and the heritage value of the buildings, will be preserved for lifetimes to come.

A large part of the Chelsea Estate, some 37 hectares of land and waterways, has been sold on a conditional basis to the community to be vested as a public park called Chelsea Estate Park. This was announced publicly in December 2005.

At the same time, Chelsea announced agreement that the Council would introduce a change to the district plan for the remaining land (15 hectares), required for refinery operations, so that its value and heritage significance would be secured for the future.

The process for changing the district plan is set down in the Resource Management Act 1991 which ensures that all steps in the process are open for public comment

The location of the site and the conceptual planning changes proposed allows for the area to become a focal point of Auckland’s North Shore in the future, perhaps in the same way as the Viaduct has become a social, residential and commercial hub of excitement and attraction on the city-side of the bridge. This planning allows for the future revitalisation of the area and protection of its historical assets.

Prior to developing the planning proposal for the Birkenhead site, extensive studies were carried out into the attributes of the land. From these studies a number of proposals have emerged and Chelsea has requested North Shore City Council introduce a change to the district plan to provide the means for managing any potential development of the refinery site in the future.

The plan change incorporates:
- Heritage protection;
- Landscape, habitat and ecology protection;
- Possible locations for future development, buildings, open space and possible commercial and residential use;
- Protection of the coastal fringe and associated escarpments and vegetation;
- Integrated mixed use development;
- Provision for roading and possible future public transport.
- All developments would require resource consent.

Before the plan change can be brought into effect, it must be subject to a process of scrutiny and testing. The plan change process is laid down in the Resource Management Act 1991. It is a completely transparent process and enables participation by individuals and the community.


- In December 2005 it was announced that Chelsea Sugar had reached an agreement in principle with the Chelsea Park Trust for the sale of a large portion of its land and waterways surrounding the Chelsea refinery.
- This proposed district plan change is the next step in the process of making this agreement a reality so the parkland may be held in perpetuity for the public of New Zealand.
- The ‘Chelsea Estate Park’, as it is to be known, comprises 37 hectares of land and encompasses lakes, regenerating forest, wetlands, open spaces and historic homes that once housed employees of the sugar refinery. It will be a wonderful asset for the people of New Zealand, and in particular for those living on Auckland’s North Shore, with its fishing and bird feeding spots, historic gardens, dams, and walking and jogging tracks.
- Acquisition of the Chelsea Estate, and formal conversion of it into a public park, will not impede Chelsea Sugar’s ability to operate the sugar refinery on a 24/7 basis on the remaining 15 hectare site.
- Chelsea Sugar is a strong business and the refinery will continue to operate on a 24/7 basis for the foreseeable future. Chelsea Sugar has invested, and continues to invest, in the development of the business and believes that sugar will be refined at the Birkenhead site for many years to come.
- The plan change request does not predicate closure of the refinery but rather seeks to ensure that an appropriate form of development is potentially viable should closure occur.

The activities currently provided for by the District Plan are inappropriate given the qualities of the land. It is good planning and commercially important to provide for alternative uses on a comprehensively planned basis.


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