Tuesday 24 November 2015

Consenting and rocket science

Looks like Christchurch has lost its shot at a space-port.

Rocket Lab is moving its proposed launch facility from Birdlings Flat out to the Mahia Peninsula. They've cited slow Christchurch resource consenting as one of the reasons.
Auckland-based Rocket Lab said its decision was partly due to the time it was taking to get the necessary resource consent from Christchurch City Council.
When the company announced the Canterbury site, it said it was also considering moving its rocket manufacturing operation to Christchurch - creating up to 200 jobs.
It has now decided on a location on the Mahia Peninsula, for which it already has the necessary consents, as the site where it aims to launch rockets from 2017.
Does that make getting a consent harder than rocket science?*

As of June, they had over 30 launches booked.  
Beck said preparations were under way to submit resource consent applications to Christchurch City Council for the launch site.

The proposal has attracted concern about the potential impact on the environment from the Green Party.

Spokeswoman for conservation, Eugenie Sage said the Kaitorete Spit was a nationally significant ecosystem and natural landscape feature containing habitat for threatened lizards, rare invertebrates and threatened plants such as Muehlenbechia astonii .

"The launch activities potentially disturb wildlife."

Sage said local residents were concerned about the potential impact of a launch on access to conservation reserves and other public land during the launches.

Applications for three consents from Rocket Lab were lodged with Environment Canterbury on June 15.
I'd started getting worried when I'd seen these kinds of conditions a few months ago:
Rocket Lab was restricted to four test firings, lasting no more than 30 seconds and, when operational, would have to provide 10 days' notice before launches. It would be restricted to 12 launches a year.
They'd want to give plenty of notice due to the exclusion zone they'd have to run around a launch site. But 12 launches a year? And wouldn't they need a few options around any potential launch in case of weather issues?

I'm rather glad that if Christchurch couldn't see fit to give them clearance for lift-off, others could.

What does it say about Councils' incentives to get their consenting offices straightened out if they can manage to chase away a potential space port?

 * Jason Krupp takes credit for this quip.

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