The Refinery to Auckland multi-product high pressure transmission pipeline, located on the North Island of New Zealand, is a unique lifeline ensuring that one third of New Zealand’s population and major international airport are supplied with Jet A1, petrol and diesel. The annual volume pumped through the pipeline equates to approximately 60,000 tanker trucks, which would be an impractical method of supply.
The pipeline, constructed and commissioned in 1986, has had numerous upgrades to ensure that capacity can be maintained, including the installation of two intermediate pumping stations.
Since its initial operation many forms of encroachment have taken place. To mitigate this risk it was decided to incorporate the pipeline corridor into the public domain and have its route shown on all district planning maps. This would also encourage proactive consultation with any prospective developers or persons performing works around the demarcated route.
For this reason, The New Zealand Refinery Company (NZRC) applied for the status of ‘Requiring Authority’ and this was granted in September 2004. This status is granted under the New Zealand Civil Defence Emergency Management Act, whereby those deemed to be “lifeline utilities of national infrastructure” must demonstrate that they can ensure the continuity of their utility both financially and with sufficient resources and controls to do so.Article continues below…
Following the achievement of Requiring Authority status, the Resource Management Act of New Zealand allows the lodgement of a Notice of Requirement to designate the said works.
If granted, the designation must be depicted on the district plan of every local authority through which the corridor traverses. The district plan is the only legally recognised document for outlining works that are either planned for the future or are already in place. Designations include electricity transmission, water mains, roads, educational facilities, and national heritage areas.
Designation is granted with conditions, restrictions and advice notes to the planners who control any new developments, road engineers, water infrastructure engineers, park rangers and their respective consultants.
These conditions, restrictions and advice notes supply those who wish to perform works that could affect the delineated corridor with guidance on what can be done, and allow a proactive discussion between the developer and the Requiring Authority.
For any works that may affect the designated asset, a section 176 approval under the Resource Management Act must be obtained from the Requiring Authority. For the designation, the same Terms of Easement were embodied into these conditions, restrictions and advice notes.
The designation applies to land not in use for roads and within roads. Any prior designations have primacy in that those under the initial designation must obtain section 176 approvals from the original authority who had obtained the prior designation.
The process included personal discussion with landowners, authorities, and utility companies who interfaced with the pipeline, followed by public notification in 2006. Hearings are held to allow both the applicant and submitters to present their views on the reasons for or against the designation.
As the length of the pipeline passes through numerous authorities, these hearings were staged in two different locations to minimise travel for those submitting votes for the designation.
A panel of commissioners preside over the hearings and the relevant town planners supply a report to state their view on the Notice of Requirement and any adverse environmental effects that are evident. Both the applicant and respective experts provide detailed oral submissions as to the necessity for the notice and the intended designation.
This is followed by submitters who present their evidence for or against the designation. There is no cross-examination at hearings but the commissioners may ask for clarity on specific items raised.
Following the hearings the commissioners make their report based on the evidence presented, and also state the conditions, restrictions and advice notes as modified and accepted during the process by the town planners of each local authority.
The Requiring Authority can then make its decision on this report to accept or reject these conditions, restrictions and advice notes.
Once the decision is made, those who made formal submission may appeal the decision to the Environment Court. Each appeal is dealt with on a case by case basis and the Environment Court can set time tabling orders to ensure the process is not lengthy. If an agreement is still not reached, a date for settlement by court can be set.
From obtaining Requiring Authority status in 2004, the Environment Court (under which the Resource Management Act is governed) finally granted designation status in February 2010.
Ongoing consultation with the various local authorities, planners, consultants and others is and always will be required to ensure that the district plan is placed in the forefront of any proposed developments adjacent to the pipeline.
This is a crucial step and procedural control in managing risk to the pipeline and ensuring the safety and well-being of the public and the environment at large.
Continual monitoring of any proposed district plan changes are also a necessity to ensure that national infrastructure does not incur reverse sensitivity issues.