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21 December 2023

Addressing community concerns about noise, traffic and vibration

Global Contracting Solutions (GCS) is currently mid-way through the resource consent process to enable the construction of Paewira at 403 Racecourse Road – a new waste-to-energy plant that aims to divert waste away from landfills and convert it into energy to power an entire community.  

As part of this process, the community had an opportunity to provide feedback on the proposal. More than 1,700 community submissions were received by Waipā District Council and Waikato Regional Council, and many of those expressed concerns about traffic, noise, and vibration – all of which are key requirements under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) for projects like Paewira.

GCS expected nothing less from a community that rightly cares about the region and the people living in it. That’s why it is continuing to ensure that people's concerns have been considered and that the facts are put in front of them to make informed decisions. This is achieved by exploring data research, commissioning impact assessments, and ensuring the design mitigates any impacts.

Like most new developments, noise and vibration are a common concern both from physical construction and during day-to-day operations when trucks and other heavy vehicles are expected to visit the site daily. 

Paewira is no different. If approved, it will become one of the region's largest construction projects, bringing in upwards of 300 employees to build the state-of-the-art facility. 

Paewira will place a paramount focus on minimising noise impact throughout construction and the facility's operations. 
According to the Waipa District Council District Plan, the noise caused by the operation of the facility between 7am and 10pm must not exceed approximately 50 decibels when measured from nearby residential properties.  In cases where it does, mitigations must be put in place. 

To put it into perspective, the average volume of a whisper is about 30 decibels, a refrigerator is 40 decibels, rainfall is 50 decibels, people chatting is 60 decibels and a car engine is 70 decibels. 

GCS has taken assessments from several noise-sensitive locations along Racecourse Road and at the Racecourse. The majority of the results came back as compliant against relevant noise regulations, with three locations exceeding the 50-decibel limit set by no more than 2 decibels. An exceedance of 2 decibels is not discernible by the human ear. However, GCS is now exploring options to mitigate these exceedances. 

Project Paewira Chair, Roger Wilson, says that although exceedances are minimal, GCS still wants to ensure the community is put first and mitigations are put in place. 

“Given the nature of the work, we should expect there to be some noise, and that’s why we’re committed to keeping the base of operations enclosed, to keep noise to a minimum. We have also designed mitigations such as noise fences to lower impacts for nearby residents.

“It’s important to note that these assessments are taken to identify noise impacts at times during the day, and at night. The assessments showed that on brief occasions throughout the day, there would be exceedances of 2 decibels, but not enough to make it uncompliant. There is also a slight exceedance of 2 decibels at night at the first-floor level, but this is within the margin of error and won’t be noticeable to nearby residents.”

The other key concern from residents was about the traffic impacts on the existing road. 

Traffic access to the site will be from Racecourse Road, with impacts on residents’ amenities mitigated through the restriction of vehicle movements. 

GCS predicts there will be 185 vehicles per day, which is just a 10 per cent increase in the current volume per day and the majority of this is limited to the plant operating hours.”

“As it is an industrial plant, the reality is it will require heavy vehicles to deliver waste and remove recyclables,” says Wilson.

“Racecourse Road is a district collector road. This means it was designed for heavy vehicles to service industrial-zoned land. Racecourse Road is the legal and most practical access to the site, has been designated in the Council’s plans as suitable to service the site and is expected to support the types and scale of vehicle movements we will require.” 

While there will be some minor additional traffic movements associated with the project during operation, such as employee access and delivery of materials, assessments show the impact on the current road activity will be minor.

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