Smith challenges Council’s impotence over Landfill

Posted at 9:55am Tuesday 01 Oct, 2019

Kaipara Mayor Dr Jason Smith has renewed his attacks on plans for a controversial landfill in the Dome Valley and says Auckland Council is perfectly capable of blocking the move if it has the will to do so.

Dr Smith's comments come in the wake of remarks by Auckland Mayor Phil Goff at a Mayoral candidates debate in the Warkworth Town Hall on September 16.

Mr Goff was responding to a question posed by Dr Smith at the meeting, asking what the candidates' position was on the “Dome Valley tip”.     

Mr Goff said Auckland Council could not stop Waste Management applying for a consent to build the landfill. This application would be considered by independent commissioners and, if the commissioners' views were contested, then the matter would be dealt with in the Environment Court.  

“That's what you are required to do under the Resource Management Act. We don't have the power to stop it,” Mr Goff said.

But after the meeting, Dr Smith said Auckland Council did have the power to stop moves to build the landfill. Although Mr Goff was right about the regulatory process, Council still had the authority to decide how it wanted to dispose of its waste. If it decided against dumping it in a landfill, then Waste Management would have no option but to ditch its plans to construct one, even if they were approved, because there would be no waste to fill it with.   

Dr Smith said the prospect of hundreds of additional waste trucks rumbling through the Dome Valley every day would have dire economic consequences for Kaipara.

“They will potentially strangle the entire region of Northland,” he said.

More importantly, he said leachate from the landfill would inevitably end up poisoning the Kaipara Harbour.

“Even if the landfill is filled up after 10 years and abandoned, it's still going to end up poisoning the Kaipara – even if it's after 100, 200 or 500 years. It will start to leak at some point, and Waste Management cannot guarantee that it never will.”

Dr Smith said his cynical view was that the proposed landfill was being sited at the absolute edges of the Auckland region, where it would be “out of sight, out of mind” for most Aucklanders, but it posed an unacceptable risk to Kaipara.  

He suggested an alternative option for disposing of Auckland's rubbish was to build a waste-to-energy plant in New Plymouth and ship the rubbish there by rail. The Government had already signalled New Plymouth as a major future energy centre for New Zealand and this would be an ideal way of meeting this goal.

Dr Smith said he had spoken to New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom who was “really open” to the idea.

Other Mayoral candidates at the Warkworth Town Hall meeting – John Tamihere, Craig Lord and Peter Vaughan – also voiced support for waste-to-energy.   

Mr Tamihere said the use of waste-to-energy plants in Sweden had dropped the requirement for landfills by 80 per cent and they met half of that country's winter energy needs.

Mr Lord said it was annoying to find on one hand Council voicing great concern about climate change, but going quiet on the issue when it came to landfills.

“There is no need for landfills. The Council should be as noisy as hell about that to Waste Management and making sure they b*gger off,” he said.  

But after the meeting, Phil Goff said the advice he had received was that large-scale facilities to extract energy from waste would be very expensive and, once built, would require a large, ongoing supply of waste to burn.

Mr Goff did not comment when asked whether Council could kill the landfill project by refusing to supply waste to it, except to reiterate his remarks about the regulatory process. However, he did say that Council's goal was to reduce waste to landfill by 30 per cent by 2030 and achieve zero waste by 2040.      

“This is ambitious, but achievable. We have already reduced household waste generation by 10 per cent in five years,” he said.

Mayoral candidate Craig Lord was among those giving the thumbs down to the landfill.

Anti-landfill protestors were out in force at the Mayoral candidates debate.


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