A funding package has been broadly agreed to that will enable the removal of ouvea premix from four sites in Southland, Gore District Council chief executive Stephen Parry announced today.
The announcement comes after weeks of delicate negotiations between NZAS, the Crown, southern local authorities and the landlords of sites where the premix is stored.
There are approximately 22,000 tonnes of premix in Southland, located at the former paper mill in Mataura, and at sites at Awarua and Invercargill. It was owned by Taha Asia Pacific, which went into liquidation in 2016.
In December 2017, liquidators EY formally disclaimed the premix, leaving its disposal to interested parties, including central and local government and the landlords of the storage sites.
In making the funding announcement, Mr Parry acknowledged the constructive attitude of all participants in what has been “a challenging negotiation process”.
Details of the agreement and process for the removal of the premix have yet to be finalised, although it can be confirmed the product will be processed offshore.
The largest single contribution to the $4 million package would come from NZAS, Mr Parry said.
The company and Government combined would cover 75% of costs with southern councils and landlords paying the remainder.
Mr Parry said the contribution of each council – Gore District, Southland District, Invercargill City and Environment Southland – had yet to be ratified.
Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks said he was confident the councils would be able to reach an agreement on the apportionment of costs relatively quickly, given the good relationships that exist.
Mr Hicks congratulated Mr Parry on his commitment and skills at negotiating a funding solution that will see the potentially hazardous substance removed from the province.
NZAS Chief Executive and General Manager Gretta Stephens also acknowledged Mr Parry’s good work in brokering the agreement in principle for the funding of a solution.
“While we are still working to finalise the arrangements for implementing this solution, my team and I are proud to continue working with the Southland community to solve the unfortunate situation left behind by Taha,” she said.
Property owners’ spokesperson Michael Laws said landlords had suffered a loss of over $1.2m from the Taha liquidation. They were appreciative of the contribution of all the parties to this settlement.
“We particularly want to thank Gore CEO Steve Parry for his efforts in brokering a deal between so many different and disparate partiesSouthern MPs have welcomed the news.
New Zealand First MP Mark Patterson commended the parties involved in finding a pragmatic outcome.
“The most important thing is that the people of Mataura have an end in sight for the health and environmental threat to their community.
“That said this is a wholly unsatisfying situation for all involved. I will be working with other interested parties to put measures in place to make sure the taxpayer and ratepayers are not put in this position again,” he said.
Labour MP Dr Liz Craig described the agreement as “fantastic news for Southland”.
“It will provide certainty for local communities and landowners around when this toxic premix will be removed.
“It was great that Central Government, the NZ Aluminium Smelter, local councils and landlords have all worked together to come up with a collaborative solution. However, once it (the ouvea premix) is removed, we need to ensure that this never happens again,” she said.
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