Southland Councils Ask Government For Help with Toxic Waste

Jan 11, 2018
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The Gore District Council will be doing everything in its power to ensure the removal of ouvea premix stored in the former Mataura paper mill, Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks said today.

The resource consent for the storage of 10,000 tonnes of the oxide residue expires today (11 January). Its owner Taha Asia Pacific Ltd went into liquidation in 2016. Last month the liquidator formally disclaimed the substance as onerous property.

Mr Hicks said the Council has been working with other parties to find a permanent solution for the removal of the premix.

“Our focus has been and will continue to be the protection of the community and environment.

“Ultimately we want to see the premix gone from Mataura. However, it will take time.”

Chief executive Stephen Parry said the Council would be taking a two-pronged approach to dealing with the issue.

At an urgent meeting yesterday, senior councillors resolved that, subject to confirmation from its legal advisors, the Council would seek a declaration from the Environment Court as to who is responsible for the storage of the premix.

The Council was also in discussions with a company that proposes to remove and dispose of the premix offshore.

Mr Parry said there was a definitive offer on the table.

There is a cost involved and the Council will be working with other interested parties to secure a funding package.

“We have to remember this is not just a Mataura or Gore District Council problem, it’s a Southland problem.”

Just before Christmas Mr Hicks, as chair of the Southland Mayor Forum, wrote to the Minister of Finance and Minister of Environment seeking an urgent meeting to discuss what assistance the Government was willing to provide.

Regulatory and Planning General Manager Ian Davidson-Watts said from a regulatory viewpoint, the Council’s priority was to resolve the question of responsibility for storage of the premix.

“As we contemplate the type of regulatory action we will take, the Council needs to be absolutely certain who is responsible for the storage of this substance.”

Dr Davidson-Watts said in the interim little has changed, apart from the existing consent expiring.

“The conditions will continue to be met and unless there is a catastrophic flood, there are no safety or environmental issues.”

The Council will continue to monitor ammonia levels and flood protection measures will remain in place.

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