13 Jul 2023

Te Kōwhai residents fear large stockpile of explosives near school, childcare centre

From Nine To Noon, 9:05 am on 13 July 2023
Farmer holding pile of ammonium nitrate pellets over bag, top view. Mineral fertilizer

Photo: 123rf

A large stockpile of the potentially explosive chemical, ammonium nitrate is being stored in the small Waikato town of Te Kōwhai, without resource consent. Ammonium nitrate is the chemical that caused a major explosion in Beirut in 2020, when it was stored incorrectly. While the risk of it exploding has been assessed by Fire and Emergency NZ as "low", the characteristics of the storage site potentially increases the risk, FENZ says. The storage of up to 249 tonnes of the material and application to increase that to 349 tonnes has alarmed the local community. Within just two kilometres of the site is a school, a childcare centre and a retirement village. It's also very close to a major gas pipeline. The Waikato Times has reported the material is owned by Australian company Orica, but is transported and stored in New Zealand by Move Logistics. It's now stored on a property owned by local company The Lummys Block Limited, without resource consent, although the application has since been lodged and is sitting with the Waikato District Council. Kathryn speaks with Brian Palmer, chair of the Te Kōwhai Community Group and Stephen Darby who owns the local childcare centre.