Millions of tyres a hazard, Waikato Regional Council decides
A Chinese government-owned stockpile of two million tyres stored at a Waikato yard will have to be moved by November 15 to comply with an abatement notice.
And it looks like the tyres will be heading to Auckland.
The tyre yard in Kerepehi, southeast of Ngatea in the Hauraki Plains, is managed by Waste Management Ltd, which claims it shreds 30 tonnes of tyres a day at the site.
According to the Companies Office website, Waste Management Ltd is owned by Beijing Capital Group, a Chinese state-owned enterprise.
After 2000 to 4000 new tyres were being dumped at the Kerepehi site each day, a source said, Waikato Regional Council officers issued an abatement notice.
Waste Management Ltd has told the regional council it plans to shut down the Kerepehi operation by June next year, the source said.
The company was setting up a warehouse in Auckland, which should be operational by the end of this year.
Hauraki fire chiefs were concerned the Kerepehi stockpile could become an environmental threat if it caught fire, due to the way the tyres were stacked. Tyre fires are notoriously hard to extinguish and the environmental effects can be deadly.
"On October 5, regional council served abatement notices to Waste Management Limited," a council spokeswoman confirmed.
"This notice requires no further tyres to be received and for storage of tyres to be done in a way that will have no adverse effect on the environment."
A tyre industry source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the scale of Waste Management's stockpile had shocked other tyre recyclers.
He questioned whether the company had the capacity to recycle such large volumes of tyres.
Another source said at least 2000 tyres were being delivered to the site each day. Some days it could be as many as 4000 tyres.
"The number of new tyres going there has just gone through the roof," the person said.
Waikato Regional Councillor Stu Husband said the size of the Kerepehi stockpile was alarming.
"We're now looking forward to a positive solution and a way forward with the tyres that are already there," he said.
"As an ex-firefighter, I'd say the fire hazard associated with these tyres is enormous," he said.
"If they did catch fire, the environmental impact would be just terrible."
Currently, there are no specific regional or national rules managing large-scale used tyre sites.
In 2015, Hamilton City Council ratepayers were left with a $250,000 clean-up bill after 150,000 used tyres were abandoned at a Frankton depot.
The tyres were removed, but later dumped at various sites across the central North Island.
New Zealand generates 4 million used tyres a year - or approximately one tyre per head of population - according to Environment Ministry numbers.
Waikato Regional Cr Kathy White said tyre disposal needs to be made a national priority under the Waste Minimisation Act.
Currently, councils have to spend time and money writing bylaws to restrict them, White said.
"The Fire Service and regional councils have to monitor tyre stockpiles and sometimes prosecute in order to force the tyres to be moved. They often end up in another place that doesn't have rules to protect itself.
"It's a merry-go-round with councils all individually spending time and money trying to manage the problem without actually finding a solution. All of this happens because the government has failed to acknowledge how big a problem this is.
"Tyres are the sleeping giant."