Resource consents for cattle feedlots in Canterbury have become the subject of intense community interest, with the latest application headed for a public hearing.
Submissions have closed on consent applications, with Environment Canterbury (ECan) issuing a notification that Wongan Hills’ farming plan to establish a large-scale feedlot is destined for a hearing before a panel of independent commissioners.
Wongan Hills’ consent applications to Environment Canterbury (ECan) relate to a proposal for the operation of up to four composting barns housing up to 2,200 cattle in a feedlot at Kaituna Valley on Banks Peninsula.
The Wagyu beef from the feedlot would be destined for export to Japan.
Two consent applications were publicly notified in December 2022, one to use land for a feedlot and composting barns and the second for the discharge of contaminants (odour).
Public submissions closed on March 2, 2023, with ECan receiving 128 submissions.
General themes of the submissions include concerns over the impact on the nearby environmentally sensitive Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere, flooding risk and animal welfare, with the majority of the submissions opposing the applications.
“As public submissions have now closed and the consent applications are subject to a formal decision-making process as set out in the Resource Management Act [RMA], we can’t consider any additional feedback or comment further on the consent applications at this time,” ECan said in a news statement.
The next step for the applications will be a hearing before a panel of independent commissioners, with a date to be confirmed but likely to be before June.
Local residents are prominent opponents under the umbrella of community group Little River Echo Collective (LREC), which initially petitioned for ECan to publish the consent application so that the community and independent scientists could scrutinise it and those affected could have a say.
LREC’s submission highlights its key objections as flood risk, the risk of discharges, odour and dust affecting the highly sensitive environment as well as affecting local residents.
Group spokesperson Donald Matheson said the group lobbied for public notification as it considered the decision too important for ECan to rely on the information and analysis that the farming company had put together.
“Mana whenua and residents need to be heard and independent scientists need to be able to analyse the risks involved,” Matheson said.
“It is the case of wrong farming in the wrong place.
“ECan is calling it a risk, we are calling it reality, we have got evidence of recent flooding covering the Kaituna Valley from side to side. It has happened frequently in the past, as recent as 2022.”
LREC claims the feedlot barn operation poses a major risk to the environment and the lake’s health and says it is a threat to animal health for the cattle to live on a composting floor 24 hours a day, on a floodplain.
According to the application the cattle would produce an estimated 50 million litres of effluent and 130,000kg of methane a year, based on 60kg per animal.
The latest design is for a 100% composting system from which there would be no leaching as it is all contained in the compost that burns off any liquid, and with the floor designed to not allow any infiltration of liquid, should any exist.
The shed system would not be comparable to traditional feedlots such as the Five Star Beef operation near Ashburton.
Five Start Beef is the only feedlot with consent to operate in Canterbury. Since late 2022, ECan has received resource consent applications for other feedlots at sites across the region, including Banks Peninsula and Selwyn Waihora.
“In Canterbury cattle feedlots and the resource consents required for them to operate are the subject of intense community interest,” ECan said.
Five Star Beef Ltd owns and operates New Zealand’s largest cattle feedlot. Operating since 1991, it includes 46ha housing up to 19,000 cattle.
Five Star Beef Ltd has 12 resource consents for the feedlot, as well as two Farming Land Use consents.
The consents are regularly monitored by ECan, it said.