Centre a welcome relief

Last updated 15:26 13/10/2011

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OPINION: One of my responsibilities in the big picture was to encourage innovative, new industries to Invercargill, so it gave me great pleasure to open the new Taha Dross Recycling Plant at Tiwai Point last Wednesday, writes Tim Shadbolt this week.

Not only were the representatives of this Bahrain company great hosts, but they are extracting more aluminium and producing environmentally friendly fertiliser from a product that has, in the past, caused this council huge headaches and heartaches.

In the 1980s, dross was recycled within the city by Haysom Metal Industries, but the plant caused vibrations and council was confronted by an ever-increasing army of angry Invercargill residents claiming that they couldn't sleep at night.

The council had no choice but to follow up these complaints, and when we outlined the problem to Haysom it simply closed up shop and walked away. Suddenly, the city inherited tons of "toxic waste". Then a ship full of dross in Sydney Harbour caught fire.

By the time I was elected in 1993, the warehouse at Bluff was in dire straits.

The roof was leaking and liquid dross was flowing on to the footpaths. A series of emotional and, at times, angry emergency meetings took place in Bluff.

These were chaired by me or Eric Roy and at one stage. Eric became so impatient about the exaggerated descriptions being circulated about this "toxic waste" that he offered to deposit it on his own farm.

The problem at Bluff was resolved when the city council decided to buy the warehouse and use it for the Bluff Oyster Festival.

The Richardson Group and the Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter came to the party, and that problem was no longer a headache.

But we still have warehouses full of dross in the city and we do need a long-term answer. That's why it was good to see Invest South investing in the Taha project.

This local community investment agency is symbolic of the co-operation that can be developed by local trust money and international industries or international investors.

The new Taha recycling centre cost well in excess of $6 million and is ideally located within the Tiwai Point safety-security zone.

I'm always impressed by the rigorous safety regulations that are enforced whenever you visit the Tiwai smelter.

When I worked at Manapouri in 1967, we didn't get safety glasses or earmuffs and a man a mile got killed – there were 17 miles of tunnels and 17 men lost their lives. We were like Wild West cowboys compared with the strict health and safety regulations imposed by the Tiwai smelter. I call that progress.

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Although I wasn't impressed by the role played by Mark Peck during the great Southland dross saga, I was impressed by his story of redemption featured in this newspaper.

Mark was Invercargill's MP for nine years, and during that time, he did what he thought was best for the city.

All right, he did fall flat on his face at the end of his term in office, but let's face it, we all have our moments.

Humans can be quite fragile at times. Perhaps we are not as clever as we like to think we are. I know that sounds like heresy, but let's just say that Mark has had a rough landing.

Then he picked himself up, dusted off his coat, and started again, this time in an inner-city Wellington coffee bar.

By coincidence, he ended up on the site of the student pub of the 1960s, The Duke.

It's great to see Mark get back on his feet. Let's face it, anyone can handle the sweet rose of triumph and success, but it takes real courage to handle the bitter lemon of defeat.

» Tim Shadbolt is the mayor of Invercargill.

- The Southland Times

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