14 Sep 2023

Kicking up a stink - Christchurch battles over smelly compost plant's future

7:58 pm on 14 September 2023
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The future of compost in Christchurch is up in the air while a putrid plant is planned to be replaced. Photo: Supplied

Christchurch residents are being asked to decide what they want to do with their green waste over the next couple of years while a new compost plant is being built, with options including sending it straight to the dump or shipping it off to the North Island.

After years of complaints about the putrid smell from the Christchurch City Council's compost plant the council agreed to relocate it, but that could take up to five years.

So now the council is looking at the best short-term option to clear the air.

One of the Bromley residents who has been fighting for years to get the compost plant closed down is Bruce King.

"At times it is vile, really vile, and it makes you want to chuck up when it is really bad.

"You could say it's a combination of sour silage, pig s***, and sour milk, it's all those combinations of stuff that come from household waste being put into the composting."

He said the smells often inhibit what residents can do in their own backyard.

He said often it stopped them from going outside and working in the garden, and they do not like to risk inviting people over for anything outdoors because they never know when the wind will turn and the smell will return.

Vickie Walker has lived in the Christchurch suburb of Bromley since before the compost plant was constructed, and said she was worn down by the ongoing stench and fight.

"We want to live our lives like other people live their lives, and not be treated as the scum underneath your shoes. That's what we feel like.

"We're working class people on this side of the city, and we deserve to be taken care of. "

The council has agreed the plant needs to be relocated, but with that at least three-to-five years away, it was asking residents what they wanted to happen in the meantime.

There were five options out for public consultation. They included sending all green waste to landfill, reducing the amount processed at Bromley and sending some to landfill, partially treating the material at Bromley and then sending it elsewhere, or doing all the processing elsewhere.

Council's manager of resource recovery Dr Alec McNeil said finding another location for processing was not straightforward.

Currently there were no South Island processors with the capacity or resource consent to take Christchurch's kerbside organics, which are around 55,000 tonnes per year, but there were potential North Island options.

McNeil said all the options have different costs, benefits and drawbacks to them.

"There are tradeoffs. Whilst it would cost you more transport-wise and logistics-wise to get it to the North Island, it will still be processed and be a saleable commodity, whereas by sending it to landfill there are transport and disposal fees."

Another option out for consultation was continuing to use the Bromley plant, an option that Walker and King were both opposed to. They would both like to see the material dumped in the landfill at Kate Valley.

People have until 1 October to make a submission.

Bill Martin, the manager at the BHU trust based in Lincoln which offers training in organic farming and gardening, said the Bromley residents have a valid complaint, but he said sending the material to the landfill would be a great shame.

"You only have to look online to see some of the issues with putting organic matter and organic refuse in landfills, things like producing methane and other carbon emissions, to see it is a bad idea."

Martin said Christchurch green waste collection is an amazing scheme and superior to what is available in many other centres, but he said that in hindsight, locating so close to residential properties was a mistake.

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