Rubble 'difficult, risky venture'
The company stockpiling Christchurch's growing mountain of demolition debris says two other companies pulled out of the project because it was financially risky.
It has also emerged that substantially less rubble at the site would be recycled than was originally hoped.
Transpacific Industries Group runs a recovery park at Burwood to store, sort and process earthquake rubble on city council-leased land.
Waste contractors, upset at not being involved in the project, have raised concerns that the work was not tendered.
Transpacific South Island general manager Gareth James said yesterday that operating the Burwood Resource Recovery Park was difficult and "it wouldn't be hard to lose your shirt on this job".
The recycling job requested by Civil Defence soon after the February quake had turned into "debris management" under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), he said.
"You don't know how much [demolition material] you're going to get when you start," he said.
"You don't know what's in it, you don't know how sortable it is going to be, you don't know what the markets are going to be like for the stuff that you might pull out of it. It's all complete unknowns.
"It's a very difficult and risky venture, which is a large part of why our two partners have decided not to continue with the project."
The recovery park was established during the national state of emergency after February's quake.
Initially, Transpacific partnered council-owned company EcoCentral and Frews Contracting. Transpacific's partners pulled out soon after Cera took over from Civil Defence in May.
EcoCentral general manager Robert Gerrie previously said it ended its involvement for "commercial reasons".
At the Burwood site yesterday, three diggers shaped the 25-metre-high pile of about 170,000 tonnes of debris.
More than 250 trucks are dumping about 2000 tonnes of rubble each day.
Overall, about one million tonnes of debris is expected to be stockpiled, which will take years to sort and process using a $9 million facility still to be built by Transpacific.
James said initial expectations were that more rubble would arrive more quickly.
However, insurance issues had slowed down demolition in the central city and demolition contractors were now picking through downed city buildings to salvage valuable material, mainly steel, he said.
Since May, inert earthquake waste could be dumped at Lyttelton's port, where land is being reclaimed.
The changes had sparked a fee rise at Burwood, James said.
From September 19, dumping unsorted demolition waste would cost $120 a tonne, up from $90 a tonne.
"What we're getting here is really the tail end – the stuff that's already been picked over and is far too hard to do anything with," James said.
Originally, it was hoped 75 per cent of debris at the site would be recycled. However, that has been revised to 50 per cent.
Transpacific said the material unable to be recycled would be taken to the Kate Valley landfill in North Canterbury "at a high cost".
In a separate, off-limits area, under 24-hour guard, is rubble from buildings in which people died, including the Canterbury Television and the Pyne Gould Corporation buildings.
Mountains of silt and sand ejected during liquefaction have been deposited in different areas at the site, which used to be Burwood's landfill.
- The Press