Refining New Zealand Ltd (NZX: NZR) wants to deepen the channel into Whangarei Harbour so larger oil tankers can visit the refinery fully loaded.
The New Zealand Herald reported yesterday that Refining NZ’s application for a resource consent to deepen the channel has attracted more submissions opposed to the plan than those in support.
Refining NZ wants to dredge the channel so that larger oil tankers can come in fully loaded, reducing shipping movements and transport costs. Those big ships, however, already come in, but carry less than capacity loads because the channel is not deep enough.
The Herald said smaller tankers carrying 700,000 barrels of crude oil can safely navigate through the harbour channel but larger tankers with a capacity of more than 1 million barrels can only come in with 120,750 barrels or only at 11.5% capacity.
Of the 50 submissions received by the Northland Regional Council (NRC), 30 were against granting of resource consent, 18 in favour while two were neutral.
NRC-appointed independent commissioners have heard from submitters and have asked for more information from Refinery NZ and others before making a decision. NRC staff recommended to the independent commissioners that the resource consent be granted with conditions.
To achieve the desired depth and alignment, five separate areas of the harbour channel will need to be dredged and an estimated 3.6 million cu m of seabed removed. A minimum channel depth of 16.8 metres at low tide is needed for tankers to access the refinery jetty at all times.
Iwi groups and other Maori parties are opposed, along with Whangarei Harbour Marine Reserve Advisory Committee, Whatitiri Resource Management Unit, Bream Bay Coastal Care Trust, Fisheries Inshore NZ and Ngatiwai Trust Board. Most of the supporting submissions were from fuel distribution and supply companies, and Northland businesses.
In his submission, Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Tony Collins said the impact on the environment from the dredging would be minor and acceptable.
“Northland's economic development and growth requires the right infrastructure, a skilled workforce, and the opportunity at a regional level for businesses to grow both their capability and capacity,” he said.