16 Nov 2018

Controversial scheme to dump waste adopted by Taranaki councils

4:33 pm on 16 November 2018

Taranaki's councils have accepted a deal to ship the region's waste hundreds of kilometres away to the Bonny Glen mega-dump near Marton.

New Plymouth District councillor John McLeod.

New Plymouth councillor John McLeod voted against the deal. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

The Stratford, South Taranaki and New Plymouth District Councils say the move will save ratepayers $25 million over 35 years.

New Plymouth District Council chief executive Craig Stevenson said the offer was too good to ignore.

"It enables the councils to focus on becoming a Zero Waste region without raising the residential waste disposal costs, as no minimum tonnage is required and we only pay for what we send."

Mr Stevenson said Taranaki would initially truck between 25,000 and 30,000 tonnes of waste to Bonny Glen annually.

"Obviously we're not overly keen on adding more congestion to the roads. We looked carefully at the rail options. It's been looked at and disregarded for various reasons, but at this stage it will certainly be road transport by diesel trucks."

It was hoped over time that Taranaki's Zero Waste programme would reduce the number of trucks required to shift the waste and more environmentally friendly truck-fuels, such as hydrogen, would come on line, he said.

The decision meant the development of the $42 million Central Taranaki Landfill near Eltham would be suspended, he said.

"After careful consideration and a detailed feasibility study, the councils have agreed to suspend further development of the Central Landfill near Eltham and bank the facility for future use."

The councils have already spent $7.5m developing the Eltham site which was consented to take 2.2 million cubic metres of waste over its life.

Mr Stevenson said the 35-year agreement saved money, reduced risk, delivered long-term certainty and provided real incentive to minimise waste.

"The Central Landfill would need more waste sent to it to keep fixed costs down which is actually a disincentive to focus on reducing waste," he said.

New Plymouth councillor John McLeod voted against the deal when the decision was made behind closed doors.

"We make the waste. We should secure our own waste. And you know economy... we're Taranaki. We can do things ourselves.

"We shouldn't have to be so reliant on another community outside our rohe."

Mr McLeod said he believed outsourcing specialised and hazardous waste disposal could end up costing small and medium-sized businesses more than keeping it in the region.

He was also unhappy at putting more trucks on the road.

"That's not a good facet of it at all, but as I understand it trucks are going down that way every now and then already. It's just going to be more."

Climate Justice Taranaki spokesperson Emily Baily said simply focusing on the bottomline was not good enough.

"It's disgusting we shouldn't be trucking waste three hours down the country and then three hours back.

"We need to be dealing with it here and we need to be really pushing to zero waste a lot sooner it looks like we are heading for."

Ms Baily said Midwest was owned by trucking companies Waste Management and Envirowaste and they had a vested interest in keeping the trucks busy.

"It's a trucking business running a waste system and it's in their interest to keep trucking. And that's the end of it. It's just a bad decision."

Mr Stevenson said the councils had struggled with the decision to shift Taranaki's waste out of the region.

"That's one of the philosophical debates the councils had to wrestle with as well. We understand that particular philosophy but at the end of the day the savings for the three councils to ignore."

The agreement also allowed the councils to exit at any stage if they were unhappy, he said.

When Midwest Disposal's offer first became public last month, Manawatu environmental consultant Greg Carlyon warned that the councils should be wary of putting all of their eggs in the Bonny Glen basket.

"It's going to be the monster for the lower North Island there's no doubt about that. All of Kapiti, Horowhenua and I imagine eventually Wellington and possibly Wairarapa will end up there as well," Mr Carlyon said

"What I understand is that other councils are nervous about being put in a position where this company has them by the short and curlies."

Mr Carlyon said the proposal might not look so good in a few years.

"Once you're in and you've got a decent deal the alternative of building your own landfill becomes by the day less attractive, but then once you've got a monopoly in place it can potentially run the other way."

The three Taranaki councils will begin taking the region's waste to Bonny Glen in the second half of 2019, around the same time as New Plymouth's Colson Road Landfill is set to close.