18 Feb 2020

Small town residents likely to take legal action against waste processing plant expansion

1:52 pm on 18 February 2020

Angry residents in the small Canterbury town of Prebbleton are now likely to take legal action to fight to have a say over an expansion of a waste processing plant.

Prebbleton, to the south west of Christchurch.

Prebbleton is located to the south west of Christchurch. Photo: Google

The Canterbury Regional Council is allowing only 38 properties within 500 metres of the plant to make submissions about the plan to discharge contaminants into the air for the first time.

But other Prebbleton locals want a say, as the town of 4000 people sits just one kilometre from the Waste Management New Zealand plant.

Hamish Prebble has one of the 38 properties and lives about 200 metres from Waste Management's Marshs Road plant.

In its application, Waste Management said the plant will treat and manage items such as pesticides, acids, used tyres and many more types of rubbish.

Prebble said residents are turning out in force to fight.

"We had a public meeting down at the local hall, two days out we called it, and whole can handle 480 people we had in excess of 600 people in," he said.

The council, also known as Environment Canterbury, is standing by its decision to restrict submissions and said only the High Court could overturn its decision.

Residents believe it should never have to reach that stage.

RNZ requested an interview with the council, but instead it sent out a written response. The statement said the law doesn't allow it to revisit its decision about submissions.

But in it the council acknowledged the potential for health impacts and bad odours.

"Our conclusion on the level of effects (based on expert modelling and advice) was that the extent of these effects did not meet the threshold under the act for this application to be publicly notified. Public interest in itself is not a reason to publicly notify a consent application," a spokesperson said.

The Canterbury DHB also urged the council to allow the wider public to have a say due to Prebbleton's proximity to the plant.

The DHB warned the application could be controversial and attract strong public interest.

Local mayor Sam Broughton is also fighting for the town residents and outlined that in a letter to the regional council early last week.

"Talked about the way that I think the community feels really let down by the process. It hasn't been very clear particularly around notification and who's been notified and who can make a submission. And [I'm] really requesting ECan to look at it closely and start the process again to give the community some confidence," Broughton said.

Prebble said it was increasingly likely residents will file a judicial review, costing about $50,000.

"We're gonna look to try and make it fully notified. This way we can get the wider community come in and have their say and voice their democratic right, which is what should have happened in the first place. You know, it's all been dumbed down and made smaller so there's less people having a say," he said.

Prebble said he was also worried about the length of the consent.

"My biggest fear - these guys want a 35-year consent to run this plant - and if we have a fall out or if something goes wrong, we're going to be living with the problems."

The group of residents who were notified have until early next month to make a submission.