Sandstorm of controversy in Cambridge over quarry, fears silica dust could contaminate waterways

A sandstorm of controversy is brewing in Cambridge, with locals vowing to fight a proposed quarry just three kilometres from the Waikato township.  

Just a handful of residents say they have been notified about the 25 year project, which some fear could see silica dust contaminate the Karapiro stream and Waikato river.

"Silica sand is capable of floating in 20km winds for 3.7km that's going to affect all the people of Cambridge" says Thornton Rd resident Richard Kennaway. 

RS Sands, a joint venture between Revital and Stevenson Aggregates, is seeking consent to extract 400,000 tonnes of sand a year from the proposed site on the very edge of town.

Rhys and Antoinette Powell's property borders the site.

"In Australia this would never be allowed. They have buffer zones, you don't put it 10 metres away from a waterway."

He says, "we are supposed to be looking after our waterways and the Karapiro stream goes straight into the Waikato river, Auckland gets 30 percent of its drinking water from the Waikato river."  

An average of 52 trucks every weekday and as many as 200 trucks a day could visit the site, according to a pre-application meeting held between RS Sand Ltd and Waipa District Council staff.

There are plans to draw 1.2 million litres a day of ground water.

RS Sand Ltd told Newshub in a statement there is a detailed consent process underway.

"We welcome the input of the community in which we live and operate."

 The construction industry needs sand. New Zealand needs homes.

Rhys Powell knows that. He owns a construction firm but worries the Newcombe Road site is not sustainable, or safe for the community.

"Silica dust and PM10 is fine, you can't see it so you can't manage it- it's a proven cause of cancer so it's irreversible. This mine is at least 25 years, so that's long term exposure. And let's not forget all the Australian research about silicosis too."

RS Sand's statement says its quarry proposal "includes a three-metre high bund planted with native plants to screen the site. In addition, it proposes more than 10ha of native forest planting, wetland rehabilitation and riparian protection along the Karapiro Stream. This is part of our commitment to the broader community, to improving biodiversity, sequestering carbon, and to improving water quality."

There are already 13 quarries around Cambridge. 

Iwi say they are consulting town planners, and they're increasingly concerned about protecting taonga like the Waikato river and its streams.

"The Karapiro stream is where our tupuna have all lived at one time and it's a very significant site for us" says Rahui Papa co-chair of iwi, Ngati Koroki Kahukura.

Waipā District Council says resource consent pre application notes suggest the RS Sand quarry would be a discretionary activity if and when it is lodged.