Air quality under review

A hearing over Nelson Pine Industries' bid for a renewal of its air discharge consent was due to start today.

A Tasman District Council appointed commissioner is to hear the application at the district council's chambers.

The council's natural resources consents co-ordinator Leif Piggot recommended the air discharge consent be granted for a period of 25 years.

He said fomaldehyde was among a number of air discharges from multiple points around the plant's site.

Modelling suggested the ambient levels of key indicator contaminant fine particulate (PM10) and formaldehyde were well below guidelines and standards. However he recommended ambient PM10 monitoring over 24-hour averages.

Monitoring showed the largest concentrations of formaldehyde, which were below Ministry for Environment's guidelines, occurred to the northeast of the site, near the cycleway and outside the company's boundary, he said.

Mr Piggot said formaldehyde oxidised in air, soil and water and did not accumulate in the environment.

He said there was little justification for the installation of more emissions controls at the plant, given it was expensive and modelling and monitoring recorded levels were below National Environmental Standards.

Conditions proposed included limiting formaldehyde emissions to no more than 10kg per hour, reporting the monitoring of PM10 levels and alarmed detectors being installed in the plant's cyclone driers to monitor blow-outs of dust and fibre.

The council's consent officer, Michael Croxford, recommended the plant's stormwater discharge and hazardous site consents, which NPI had requested be 35 years, were limited to 25 years.

Nelson Pine is one of the world's largest single-site producers of medium density fibreboard. In 2011 it applied for renewed air, stormwater consents and a new hazardous site consent.

Owned by the Sumitomo Forestry Company Ltd of Tokyo, Japan, NPI directly employs about 210 people and its operations results in about $220 million flowing into the community.

The company application has drawn 10 submitters, with three in opposition. The Nelson City Council subsequently withdrew its opposition to the company's air discharge consent. Six submitters supported the applications and one was neutral.

One opponent, nearby resident John Palmer, said he was shocked the district's council's planners recommend granting a 25-year air discharge consent.

"The crux of the matter is what they are allowed to discharge. Ten kilograms of formaldehyde an hour is just under a quarter of a tonne a day, or around 80 tonne a year."

He said formaldehyde was known or presumed to be a cancer-causing carcinogen.

"It seems unbelievable in this clean-green country that we allow this to happen."

He said the 25-year length of the consents, particularly the air discharge application, was overly long, considering the forecast population growth in Lower Queen St planned for under Tasman District Council's Richmond West development plan, he said.

In addition, the Great Taste Cycleway that circumnavigates part of the company's site, would bring increasing numbers of riders into contact with the air discharge, he said.

Dr Palmer said NPI has done a huge amount of work in reducing the plant's water and electricity use, but was not prepared to spend any money cleaning up its air discharges.

"They could be world leaders in clean air technology - and that's what their customers need to know and will one day be asking."

Adrienne Matthews, the former co-owner of Eyebright, said in her submission she wanted to see independent monitoring of NPI's air discharges and rainwater collected during emissions.

In a pre-hearing meeting with submitters last April Ron Pilgrim, an air quality consultant contracted by NPI, said the formaldehyde reduction technology sought by Dr Palmer would cost a minimum of $20 million to implement.