West Coast Regional Council is taking legal advice around consents it issued in 2021 to enable a controversial private landfill near Greymouth.
Council chief executive Darryl Lew said while council had called in the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to assume the ongoing compliance investigation of Taylorville Resource Park (TRP), the consenting aspect is also being probed.
"Obviously there's realities and interpretations around our consents, and legal advice," he told the 29 January meeting of council.
Meanwhile the ongoing compliance investigation of the site, now in the hands of EPA, was "the most complex" ever under council's watch, Lew told councillors.
Throughout 2023, council slapped the landfill with abatements for odour, dust, and water leachate following allegations from surrounding residents, and as a result of council's own inspections.
The site was originally consented in 2021 to take clean-fill demolition but subsequent variations allowed by the regional council saw that advance to toxic materials including asbestos, coal tar, and old tyres.
At the same time the Grey District Council has raised concerns about the perceived threat of the site to the Greymouth water treatment station just below the landfill. It has also alleged the regional council should have treated it as an affected party in the consent process for the landfill.
Lew said he expected the EPA would provide a briefing in due course before making any findings public.
It was called in by the council earlier in January.
"There is no obligation by them to make public comment along the way," he said.
The ongoing investigation cost was borne by the EPA, not council. The authority brought six staff to Greymouth 10 days ago but departed after a few days.
Lew said the EPA would undertake any enforcement out of its investigation.
"It is not a recommendation back to this council for enforcement. If they decide to take it to prosecution, they will without reference to the council.
"However there is more issues around compliance with the consents issued by the Grey District Council for the site. GDC have now mimicked West Coast Regional Council and put it with the EPA," Lew said.
This was related to the subdivision approved by the district council for what became the landfill site, on the edge of Sewell Peak Farms.
Councillor Peter Ewen asked about the previously reported "illegal discharge" of water from the site, noting the tangible smell from the road of hydrogen sulphide.
Lew said TRP had a mechanism through the water reticulation system on the site to discharge run-off down the creek on the edge of the site - but it was not consented.
"We're alleging the discharge of water that our compliance team observed and passed on to the EPA was contaminated - but it's alleged at the moment," Lew said.
Greymouth Mayor Tania Gibson said her council had written to the EPA asking if Grey's interest in the landfill site could be joined with the investigation now transferred to the authority.
As yet the EPA had not confirmed, Gibson said on 31 January.
However the district council wanted to step back from any direct investigation of the site "so it's neutral".
This was related to what the district council had understood in granting the original subdivision for what is now a landfill.
"It was only going to be heavy fill. This is not what it turned into, this bloody debacle," Gibson said.
Grey had also been dealing with questions from the community "that the district council knew more" about what was intended for the site.
"It was never what it's become," Gibson said.
Taylorville Resource Park has been approached for comment.
LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.