15 May 2023

Controversial Waimate energy plant proceeds to consenting process

4:33 pm on 15 May 2023
An artist's concept  for a waste-to-energy plant proposed to be built at Waimate by South Island Resource Recovery Limited.

An artist's concept for a waste-to-energy plant proposed to be built at Waimate by South Island Resource Recovery Limited. Photo: Supplied/ SIRRL

A controversial proposal for a Canterbury waste-to-energy plant will proceed to the consenting process.

South Island Resource Recovery Limited (SIRRL) had its consents for a proposed waste incineration plant in Waimate rejected twice last year.

Canterbury Regional Council and Waimate District Council said the application was returned because it did not supply enough information and was missing a cultural impact assessment.

But late on Friday night, an independent commissioner decided to let the application enter the system, despite still not having a completed assessment.

Both councils said they accepted the decision.

"We will now continue to process the application," Canterbury Regional Council consent planning manager Aurora Grant said.

"We will work with our partners within Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu to ensure any concerns from the proposal are appropriately addressed."

South Island Resource Recovery Limited (SIRRL) director Paul Taylor.

South Island Resource Recovery Limited director Paul Taylor. Photo: Supplied / SIRRL

SIRRL director Paul Taylor said the company was thrilled with the decision.

"We are very pleased that the application can now proceed to public submission stage and can be given due consideration by the councils' own appointed experts," he said.

Taylor said mana whenua were continuing to work on the cultural impact assessment.

"SIRRL have always treated a cultural impact assessment to be an important document ... and we look forward to receiving [it] from mana whenua so that it may be considered as part of the consent evaluation process."

The Canterbury waste to energy plant’s proposed location near Glenavy, Waimate.

The proposed location of the plant. Photo: Supplied / SIRRL

The company had also completed a number of independent reports for the application.

They covered air quality, flood risk, transport movements, the plant's lifecycle and waste acceptance criteria, among others.

Public participation in the consent process was encouraged.

"From the beginning SIRRL has requested public notification of the resource consent application, supporting public participation in the consenting process to ensure that community views and concerns are heard and appropriately addressed," Taylor said.

"While we appreciate that not all people are supportive of the proposal, the fact remains that our country continues to face an increasing waste crisis."

A group of more than 150 Waimate locals and Zero Waste Network Aotearoa both opposed the proposal. The latter called the decision "disappointing".

"We believe that any project of this magnitude must be undertaken in partnership with mana whenua, and with their explicit input and agreement at the outset," general manager Dorte Wray said.

The community would carry the risks associated with the proposed plant, she believed.

"This incinerator is not the way to do Te Tiriti partnerships at a time when we are faced with unprecedented climate impacts. Those most impacted by climate change need to be front and centre of decision-making. This community is already under severe environmental pressure with excessively high nitrate contamination of their drinking water."

According to figures from Zero Waste Network Aotearoa, Waimate sent 1280 tonnes of rubbish to landfill in 2019 - but it said at least 460 tonnes could have been diverted through better composting and recycling systems.

To run the proposed incinerator, SIRRL would have to truck in 955 tonnes of rubbish per day, Wray said.

"This is just the beginning of a very long fight for SIRRL. The Zero Waste Network will continue to support the community to resist this toxic project for as long as it takes to stop it."

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