14 Jun 2021

Taranaki composting business to appeal consents decsion

7:13 pm on 14 June 2021

A controversial composting and worm farming business in North Taranaki will appeal a hearing panel's decision not to renew its resource consents.

The Uruti site

The Uruti site. Photo: screenshot

Remediation New Zealand has accumulated a 20,000 tonne stockpile of contaminated waste at its Uruti site.

It wanted consents to discharge to air, land and water.

The company was opposed by neighbours, iwi and environmentalists who complained about odours affecting people's health and leaching of chemicals into the environment.

Remediation NZ managing director Kerry O'Neil said he wanted to see the company's opponents' evidence more keenly scrutinised.

"We think the decision put a lot of weight on some of the expert evidence of people opposed to our consent, as opposed to some of our evidence, so we'd just like to see that tested in the Environment Court."

O'Neil said a court decision would also give more clarity about what was to happen to waste on site because the Taranaki Regional Council's hearing panel decision was silent on how that should be dealt with.

"We were left in complete limbo. We've obviously still got product on site, there's stuff we need to process and, after 15 days, [since the hearing panel's decision] any discharge would be illegal and we are liable to be prosecuted for it.

"So, to be fair, we had no choice, but that wasn't the main reason for our appeal. But it certainly left us in limbo."

O'Neil said the company was hopeful of a positive outcome in Environment Court.

"Obviously we understand that there's a cost to that and we've done some pretty serious consultation with our legal staff and appealed on that basis.

"And even if we lost in the Environment Court there would be a much more managed end to the facility than we've been left with at the moment."

Opponent of Remediation NZ, neighbour Dawn Bendall, said she was not surprised that the company was appealing the consents decision.

Bendall, who believed odour from the plant cause health problems including skin irritations and breathing problems, was more concerned waste was still being delivered to the site.

"We are still being affected and still suffering because every time a truck comes up to the site and they dump their stuff we smell it.

"For us we just want them to stop and then we would get a little relief although, saying that, we are still getting affects from the drilling muds stored there as well."

Bendall said it was clear the company still wanted to operate from Uruti.

She had little sympathy for the Remediation NZ's gripe that the hearing panel's decision did not offer it clarity about how to manage closing the plant.

"I think it's absolutely shocking that there is no exit plan and no bond. I mean these guys can just up and leave and leave the situation because there's nothing in place to hold them to do something about what they've done.

Bendall blamed shortcomings of the Resource Management Act.

"The fact of the matter is that they have taken all this toxic waste up into the valley there and been paid exorbitant money to remediate it and it's been sitting there for 15 years and it's unable to be remediated."

She said the Taranaki Regional Council had to take some responsibility because it had been brought up in officers' reports and they allowed it to happen.

The regional council has said it was inappropriate for it to comment while the consenting process was before the courts.

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