Legal battle over toxic waste in Mataura nears an end

7:06 pm on 9 November 2020

The legal battle over more than 10,000 tonnes of toxic waste stored in Mataura is almost at an end.

In 2018, New Zealand Aluminium Smelters and Rio Tinto agreed with local councils and the government to remove the ouvea premix - a waste byproduct of aluminium production at Tiwai Point - from Mataura's disused papermill over six years.

Ouvea premix - or dross - is stored in loose bags around Southland.

Ouvea premix - or dross - is stored in loose bags around Southland. File image. Photo: Sort out the Dross facebook page

Flooding and fire at the site this year prompted the Environmental Defence Society to launch court action against the smelter's owners, seeking a ruling on who has responsibility for the waste.

The court action continued behind closed doors again this morning.

Alternate Environment Judge Laurie Newhook, in a minute issued this afternoon, said considerable progress had been made in the past week.

"Constructive progress continues on planning for removal of the ouvea premix from Mataura to an industrial site.

"Finalisation of the several necessary contracts is imminent. Logistical arrangements for the removal activities are now in hand.

"The parties remain focused on the urgency of the situation and are continuing to act constructively and with expedition. Their expectation remains that the accelerated removal from Mataura will be commencing next, the aim being to complete it by Christmas (possibly weather dependent)."

The parties will hold another electronic conference on Thursday.

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