A small section of the demolition industry has been dumping earthquake waste illegally and giving the industry a bad name, Environment Canterbury (ECan) says.
A review by The Press of offences since the February 2011 earthquake shows a raft of demolition contractors have been prosecuted by ECan for offences including burning, burying and dumping earthquake waste illegally.
Earthquake waste can include hazardous material such as asbestos, arsenic and other toxins.
Nearly a dozen directors and/or companies have been fined about $300,000 by ECan and the courts for offences against the Resource Management Act since February 2011.
ECan has also served a number of abatement notices and investigations are continuing.
In one of worst examples brought to light by the prosecutions, 5000 cubic metres of earthquake demolition waste was used to form a half-metre-deep farm track about 1000 metres long and 10m wide on Coutts Island Holdings land.
It was delivered to the site by Canterbury Greenwaste Processors.
The waste had not been screened for contaminants and contained asbestos from several inner-city buildings.
The farm property is on land adjacent to the Otukaikino Stream, which runs into the Waimakariri River.
In July, Judge Jane Borthwick warned of an "emerging trend" of illegal disposal by contractors when fining Tom Thumb Ltd shareholder Aaron Cooper $33,750 for burying 30 truckloads of earthquake demolition material.
ECan project manager earthquake waste Carl Diamond said "a number" of other suspected offenders were still being investigated.
Fines were reserved for "severe" instances, he said.
New Zealand Demolition and Asbestos Association president Alan Edge said the larger demolition firms "should know better" and warned people to be wary of cheap demolition deals.
He said contractors undercharged to get the job then found out how much it cost to get rid of the waste.
"The dumping costs were high for the council-owned dumping facilities at about $120 a tonne . . . an average house is about 50 tonnes," he said.
ECan director resource management Kim Drummond said a small section of the demolition industry was not following the rules, "creating a bad name for the rest".
Canterbury Greenwaste Processors director Kingsley Kepple said his company's breach occurred when disposal rules were unclear. In July he, his company and Coutts Island Holdings were fined $153,625.
"We were well out of it [the demolition industry] before the court case - we did it only for a few months after the earthquakes. It wasn't part of normal work," he said.
JFC Pumps Ltd managing director Timothy Johnstone said its fine, for dumping excess concrete slurry in the red zone, occurred three months ago.
"The company dropped excess concrete from its concrete pump hopper onto gravel on a vacant site because there were no suitable tip sites available in that area. The reason for this was the concrete had hardener additive and would have gone hard and needed to be disposed of quickly. We now have a number of tip sites available and the company has updated its processes so this will not happen again".
Graceworks Demolition Recycling Ltd refused to comment on its fine for burning waste.
Blakely Construction Ltd did not return calls to The Press on its fine for discharging asbestos onto land.
- The Press
Would you like to see the Heathcote River cleaned up?Related story: Alasdair Cassels to beautify Heathcote River