Iwi oppose extension of Tirohia landfill near Paeroa

3:12 pm on 15 June 2021

A Waikato iwi is calling for the Hauraki District council to keep their word and decline an application by Waste Management NZ to expand the Tirohia landfill site which sits on their maunga, Rae o Te Papa.

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(file picture) Photo: Creative Commons

The Ngāti Hako iwi are frustrated that 21 years after losing a case for a landfill site to be built on their whenua maunga Rae o Te Papa they are having to fight again to prevent the site from being extended, despite a memorandum of understanding (MOU) being agreed upon in 2003.

The iwi are disputing an application by the new owners of the Tirohia landfill site, Waste Management NZ, for the rubbish dump to be expanded to take in an additional three million cubic metres of rubbish over 15ha. It is located between Paeroa and Te Aroha.

The iwi said the Hauraki District Council was the only entity that could implement the original MOU land caveat within the current dispute but that the council had been silent.

Ngāti Hako iwi kaumātua Napa Otimi said the issue was the intent of the original MOU which meant further expansion to the landfill site would not occur.

"We are suffering, our land is suffering because we know that the first landfill will take 250 years to fully break down."

The iwi are now calling on all of their descendants from Ngāti Hako and Protectors of Whenua to stand with them against the violation of paru to their ancestral mountain.

"The situation today is that Waste Management New Zealand bought out the old landowner and has applied to the Hauraki District Council by new consent to put another three million cubic metres of waste into our sacred mountain below the first landfill," Otimi said.

"We believe that under the memorandum of understanding signed in 2003 the intent of that was to utilize the Resource Management Act to develop an MOU and that MOU would be binding by way of a caveat placed on the title."

Ngāti Hako lost their case in 2003 to prevent the landfill site from being built in the first place.

But the iwi established a memorandum of understanding with the then landowner, HG Leach Ltd and the Hauraki District council to have a legal caveat put on the title and prevent future landfills from being built on the block of land as well as on a 10km radius of the summit of Rae o Te Papa.

The iwi thought they were covered and any further developments would be put elsewhere, not on their maunga.

The Tirohia landfill site was then purchased by Waste Management New Zealand HG Leach Ltd in 2016 and they applied to the district council to have the site expanded.

The Tirohia landfill site would reach full capacity in the next five years.

Hauraki Mayor Toby Adams said the council was only made aware of the MOU once Ngāti Hako had raised concerns.

He said this was because he was not mayor at the time the original agreement was signed.

Adams said the local community had not been in favour of any extension either.

He said council had to remain neutral towards the issue, but they were seeking to work with Ngāti Hako to establish what steps could be taken going forward.

"The intent of the MOU was that there would be no further consenting during or after the period of 2038 and I believe that should be honoured that's my opinion.

"Unfortunately the decision will be made by independent commissioners that we neither control nor have any input as to how they come up to their final decision we can only plead our case.

"My stance has been clear from day one in meeting with Ngāti Hako that I will stand beside them the whole way," he said.

Waste Management NZ in a statement said the resource consent application filed was currently in an active hearing process, so it was not appropriate to comment on specifics.

They said they wanted to work through concerns with mana whenua constructively and respectfully.

"Our landfill management standards are among the best in the world, and we work hard to manage the waste Kiwis produce in the most environmentally responsible, safest manner possible," they said.

They stated that all landfill gas was captured and either destroyed or converted to electricity to minimise harmful greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere.

"Technology used in modern, engineered landfills has evolved significantly to protect Papatūānuku. All waste is effectively wrapped, allowing the natural decomposition process to take place while stopping any contamination of groundwater."

Otimi said the independent commissioners wanted the issue of the land caveat to be sorted out elsewhere rather than during the active hearing, but he said the iwi were challenging that perspective.

He said the iwi were doing whatever they could to prevent any further development to the landfill site from impacting their sacred maunga.

"We are taking all steps to try and convince the commissioners not to grant. The other issue is we are trying to convince the Hauraki District Council who implemented the caveat on the title ... to fulfil the intent that was used in the MOU.

"We are the guardians of our sacred mountain, Rae o Te Papa."

The Tirohia landfill case is currently being assessed in an active hearing where independent commissioners will decide whether the expanded site will be established or not.

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