16 Dec 2014

Submissions on gelatine factory's future

1:00 pm on 16 December 2014

The general manager of a Christchurch gelatine factory says it can not afford to close down temporarily while work is carried out to reduce the odour coming from the site.

Gelita has been fined thousands of dollars for breaching odour rules and today put its case to a Canterbury Regional Council hearing for why it should be granted a three year reprieve from having to comply with the limits.

Gelita has the capacity to produce over 1400 tonnes of gelatine each year.

Gelita has the capacity to produce over 1400 tonnes of gelatine each year. Photo: Supplied

General manager Gary Monk said a three year exemption was needed to prevent the business being fined out of existence.

He said in return, the company's German owners would be prepared to invest in measures to reduce the bad smells.

He said this work could be carried out within two years but that a three year exemption would provide some breathing space.

Gelita's plant in Woolston has been making gelatine from cow hides and heads for 100 years and has long been the subject of complaints.

But Mr Monk said it would be a huge loss if the factory closed, taking 60 manufacturing jobs with it.

Complaints have increased over time, particularly since the factory was damaged by earthquakes and heavy snow, he said.

He puts the increase in complaints down to people becoming more sensitive, as well as the existing consent being open to interpretation.

"As the world gets more modern, and areas change, what's acceptable changes as well. The (current) clause is so broad it can be interpreted anyway. It's basically in the opinion of the enforcement officer that the smell is deemed offensive and objectionable."

Alasdair Cassels owns the Tannery retail and hospitality development, from which Gelita can be seen ... and smelt.

He said he was filing for loss of business caused by the factory, which makes gelatine from beef skins.

"The German owners must pay for improvements, and the factory here must comply with the consent, which it has continuously breached" he said.

Mr Cassels said both could co-exist if the factory complied, but argued his development had greater economic significance.

"At a rough guess, we have probably $60 million a year turnover, and probably a lot of down stream money from that ... tourism. In economic benefit it probably dwarfs the Gelita site. And that's no reason not to have Gelita there, I'd say it's more important really, for Christchurch now to have the tannery here."

Woolston resident 'had enough'

Woolston resident Len Perryman is one of many who has had enough of the smell.

"During the summer, if you want to leave your bedroom window open, you can't, because it gets into your house. If you've got washing out on the line, it can get that bad, you're afraid the smell is going to get into the damp washing" he said.

His neighbour, Yvonne Jordan, shares the same feeling about the smell, but knew it was there when she bought her home.

She was unsure what should be done, and did not want to see jobs affected.

"Because of the earthquake, because of the way things are moving around this area, maybe that's why it should be remedied."

The smell will improve, but people are dreaming if they think consents would not be breached, said John Walley, chief executive of the New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

If smells could be contained within boundary fences, consents and zones would not be necessary, he said.

"If all consents, for noise, dust and smell could be complied with, then we wouldn't need zoning in the community. Woolston is a B-5, heavy industrial zone, and we should be focussed on developing that heavy industrial zone," said Mr Walley.

"Local manufacturers are watching treating Gelita as the canary in the mine on whether the community values industry."

Some submissions will be made today, with more due early next year.

The Canterbury Regional Council would not comment before the hearing.