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Inland Port an accident waiting to happen

Inland Port an accident waiting to happen

14/10/2015

The company behind one of the largest freight and logistics developments in New Zealand, Tainui Group Holdings (TGH), recently announced it had applied for consent to build at Ruakura and were hoping to start in the New Year. The development described as being just outside Hamilton because it is approximately 6kms from the Hamilton Central Business District (CBD), is in fact inside the city boundary with the main Port directly across the road from the University of Waikato. Company statements claim that once completed the project will be larger than Auckland’s CBD. Extending from Silverdale to the Gordonton Road/Wairere Drive roundabout and out to the future Waikato Expressway, this project would cover from the Hamilton lake (Lake Rotoroa) to the Te Rapa racecourse if superimposed on the other side of the City.

The Board of Inquiry (BOI) hearing last year only gave consideration to approximately half this project with the remaining portions being left for inclusion in the Hamilton City Council (HCC), Proposed District Plan (PDP), Ruakura section which is unlikely to be finalized before construction begins. The full impacts from a completed project of this scale have yet to be considered with local concerns such as air pollution and hazardous risks being ignored. The Board regarded the potential for a serious incident at Ruakura as being adequately covered by existing rules and regulations regarding hazardous substances and facilities. However current regulations are only considered on a site-by-site basis and pay no attention to the increased risk from multiple sites or their proximity to each other.

Accidents can and do happen despite rules and regulations designed to prevent them. In 2008 Hamiltonians were shocked by an explosion and fire at the Tamahere Icepak Coolstores that killed senior duty officer Derek Lovell and seriously injured several other firefighters. Just last month an explosion at a hazardous facility in Auckland tragically claimed another life. Explosions are not the only risk from hazardous substances as was evident when a derailment at the Port of Tauranga caused battery acid to be spilt or the recent evacuation of the Dunedin Cadbury factory and surrounding area after an ammonia leak.

Even before the recent explosions at Ruihai International Logistics Co, Tianjin, Dongjian Port, China there was discussion overseas that these types of developments may need to be further from populated areas than the current 500m required by many countries. Given that Ruihai International Logistics was subjected to different rules than a New Zealand site, it is still an example of the type of facility expected to locate at Ruakura. Warehousing, storage and distribution are the main components of freight and logistics and in New Zealand are often considered "in-transit" or a "transitional facility" giving them leniency under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act 1992, as opposed to being regulated by the more stringent Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Regulations.

The inquiry into the Tamahere fire identifies nine different factors, any one of which could have avoided the risks and injuries to the responding firefighters. Top of the list was that HSNO regulations be applied fully to the installation. The Ruakura development is likely to have multiple facilities that are not fully covered by these regulation yet still TGH, HCC and the BOI refuse to consider the risks from hazardous substances and facilities. Distances of between 20m-50m from existing established residential areas are not an adequate safety margin.

With an increase in size and scale there is a corresponding increase in risk. The odds are that it will not be a case of IF an accident happens at Ruakura but WHEN an accident happens AND how serious will it be. This project is in the wrong place and far too large to be situated so close to existing residential, educational and research areas.

Is this development really worth putting peoples’ lives and homes at risk?

ENDS

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