The RMA Quality Planning Resource

Given the differing nature, pressures and effects of quarrying and gravel extraction around New Zealand, practices reflecting the planning and management of adverse effects vary. A number of examples of approaches and methods used by councils are highlighted in the assessing and providing appropriate access to aggregate resources, quarry resource management issues, effects and methods, and Gravel extraction resource management issues, effects and methods sections.

Other specific examples of best practice are included below.

Integrated approach to identifying and managing quarrying

The Future Proof Growth Strategy and Implementation Plan, Waikato Regional Policy Statement (also see the Waikato District Plan Operative in Part, provide an example of integrated plans that all recognise and provide for quarrying and its effects, across regional and territorial authority plans.

The Auckland Spatial Plan, which is a 30 year vision document for the newly formed Auckland Council, recognises aggregate as an important construction and roading material required for a growing city. While this is a higher-level plan that discusses all aspects of city operation and growth, acknowledgement in this document should allow this to flow through into more specialised resource management plans and strategies as they are developed.

This approach identifies strategic issues and pressures in the region. Access to aggregate resources and the adverse effects of quarrying are considered alongside the provisions for growth including transport and infrastructure planning, which has been integrated into the district plan.

Provision for potential future aggregate resources

A number of plans recognise the need to provide for access to significant aggregate resources in the future and the need to limit incompatible activities in these areas. This is generally achieved through the resource consent process and considerations. However, the Waikato District Plan (partially operative) example goes further in using a set of specific criteria to identify which resources require additional consideration as opposed to giving protection to all potential aggregate resources. Although this approach is relatively new and yet to be tested in operation, it provides more specific identification and consideration of certain aggregate resources. This, in turn, gives more certainty to landowners and quarry operators.

Quarry management plans

Although not always a formal requirement (ie, through a policy or consent condition), Quarry Management Plans are a useful way to outline a range of operational details relating to the use and management of aspects of sites. In particular, the Three Kings Quarry – Quarry Management Plan provides for periodical meetings of a site liaison group consisting of the quarry operator, council and local community representatives. During these regular and ongoing meetings matters associated with the operation of the quarry which affect the community or of mutual interest are discussed.

Application forms for mines, quarries and gravel extraction

The Waikato Regional Council provides a number of consent application forms for a range of activities, including one for small and large-scale mining and quarrying activities, and another for gravel extraction. Similarly, Environment Canterbury provide a specific form for gravel extraction.

The Waikato Regional Council form for mining and quarrying covers all the associated discharges to air, water and land from quarrying and provides useful guidance on what to include in an application at the outset. The form also requires information on water take and overburden placement and provides a comprehensive guideline of what to include in the assessment of environmental effects for applications relating to quarrying operations. 

Guidelines and education material for quarrying

An example of a strategy providing a framework for managing gravel extraction is the Canterbury Regional River Gravel Management Strategy produced by Environment Canterbury. The purpose of this strategy is to manage gravel extraction in a way that is environmentally sustainable, manages flood risk, and provides for aggregate needs of the wider Canterbury area.

River Gravel Management Guidelines produced by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council also provide useful reference material on gravel management. These are intended to be used for education, to complement the regulatory controls in the River Gravel Management Plan. The guidelines include background information on gravel sources, principles to manage adverse effects and operational guidelines for extraction and associated monitoring and reporting. 

The Wellington Regional Council has guidance on the extraction of gravel and shingle on its website. This provides information on the rules for extraction across coastal, river and inland environments.

Key terms, definitions and concepts

Definitions are provided in the context of aggregates and quarrying only.

  • Aggregate: Particles of crushed rock, sand or gravel.
  • Best practicable option: As defined in the s2 of the RMA.
  • Blasting: The detonation of explosives to break rock.
  • Offsetting: Undertaking actions to compensate for adverse environmental effects that cannot be avoided after appropriate mitigation measures have been taken.
  • Overburden: Material, whether consolidated or not, that has to be removed before a mineral can be worked.
  • Recycled aggregate: Aggregate resulting from the processing of inorganic material, previously used in construction.
  • Screening: The separation of solid materials of different sizes by causing part to remain on a surface provided with apertures through which the remainder passes.
  • Quarry: An open pit or excavation from which stone, sand, gravel or mineral is extracted.
  • Quarrying: The land-based extraction of material, and typically this occurs in either an open pit (often referred to as a borrow pit) or along a hill-side. While in some situations the material may be loose (like a river bed), often it is solid rock which requires blasting or rock-breaking to initially dislodge the material before mechanically shifting to stock-pile areas or crushing areas. In most cases, quarrying occurs on privately owned land.
  • Gravel Extraction: The extraction of loose material from the beds of watercourses, predominantly rivers. This material normally only requires mechanical extraction before stockpiling and crushing. Given gravel extraction involves the removal of gravel from waterbodies, they are often located in public areas where the public can access.