The removal of ouvea premix from the former Mataura paper mill is scheduled to begin within the next three months under a contract secured by the Gore District Council.
The contract with Australian-based company Inalco Processing Ltd will see the removal of 22,000 tonnes of the substance from sites in Mataura and Invercargill over the next six years.
Gore District Chief Executive Stephen Parry said the contract ensures the 10,000 tonnes of premix stored at the Mataura paper mill will be moved first.
“This acknowledges the significant risks posed to both the environment and people by having the premix stored next to the Mataura River.”
There were logistical details to work through and Inalco was required to provide a risk management plan before removal can begin.
“It’s important we take all precautions to ensure the transfer of the premix doesn’t put the community or environment at risk.
“This is a hazardous substance and needs to be treated with respect.”
The ouvea premix will be transported to Inalco’s processing facility, situated within New Zealand Aluminium Smelters’ site south of Invercargill, where it will be processed and converted into a raw material for future use.
Mr Parry acknowledged the flexible attitude shown by NZAS in allowing Inalco to process the premix at the Tiwai Point site – “it was an important factor in getting the contract finalised”.
Funding of $4million has been pledged from all parties involved.
Under the terms of the contract New Zealand Aluminium Smelters will contribute $1.75million and the Ministry for the Environment will pay $1.25 million from its Waste Minimisation Fund. The landlords will contribute $350,000, while the remaining $650,000 will be paid by local councils.
Environment Southland will contribute $250,000, with the remaining $400,000 apportioned on a per capita basis between Invercargill City Council, Southland District Council and Gore District Council.
The Invercargill City Council contributes as a landlord and a local authority.
Mr Parry, who has been at the forefront of securing the deal, said the contract was the culmination of 18 months of “very taxing and convoluted” negotiations.
“In my many years as a chief executive I have never been involved in something as all-consuming as this.”
Mr Parry said he understood the extremely cautious approach taken by the other parties and acknowledged the compromises made to reach an agreement.
Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks said it was pleasing to get a solution that will relieve the anxiety of Mataura residents.
“The Council has been conscious of the community’s concerns but we’ve had to work through a complicated process, involving multiple parties.”
Mr Hicks paid tribute to the efforts of Mr Parry in securing a deal acceptable to all involved.