Park to be a permanent dump

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 24/11/2011

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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The Government will use special powers to turn part of Bottle Lake Forest Park into a permanent dump.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said yesterday that non-hazardous or "inert" earthquake waste would remain in Burwood Resource Recovery Park, which was established as a temporary dump after the February 22 earthquake.

"One of the huge challenges from the Canterbury earthquake is how to deal with huge amounts of waste that has come from building demolitions and liquefaction," he said.

The decision was made using special powers granted under Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act, bypassing the normal resource consent process. There will still be some public consultation but only on the conditions of resource consent.

"But it is not a question of the inert material staying here," Smith said.

The deal will also help extricate private operator Transpacific Industries Group (NZ) from the potentially risky job of trying to make money from sorting and recycling more than 4.5 million tonnes of earthquake waste with no support.

Transpacific and two other contractors was controversially given a untendered lease to operate the park by Civil Defence, but Trans-pacific's partners pulled out within months for "commercial reasons".

Under the new arrangement, a 50/50 joint-venture between five Canterbury councils and Transpacific will take over the Burwood Park, spreading the commercial risk to ratepayers.

The joint-venture – called Transwaste Canterbury – already runs the Kate Valley Landfill.

Transpacific general manager Gareth James would not comment on the suggestions Transpacific had threatened to pull out of the park if the councils didn't participate.

"Transpacific went into the project on the basis of joint-venture and wanted to continue this way," he said.

However, he conceded the project had become far more risky than first thought, with many demolition contractors extracting valuable material from the waste before dumping it.

"What we are getting is residual crap," he said.

"We've had to completely re-engineer the project to make it economically viable."

James said it would take up to five years and tens of millions of dollars to sort the waste.

Smith said more than 4.5 million tonnes of silt and building material waste would be created by the earthquake and disposal was a huge challenge.

Hazardous materials, such as asbestos, would be sorted and transported to Kate Valley and between 500,000 and 1 million tonnes could be "economically" recycled over the next five years.

The remaining "inert" waste – such as silt – will stay at the Burwood site, covering up to 20 hectares of land, he said.

"It would be environmental [nonsense] to have thousands of trucks carting the material that is inert from here to the Kate Valley landfill ... this is an old landfill, there is a large amount of space here. It is the sensible place," Smith said.

The Government has also pitched in with $2.5 million toward building a $9.5m recycling plant on the site, which is expected to be operating by April next year.

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The decision was welcomed by Environment Canterbury and the Christchurch City Council but concerns were raised about the impact on Bottle Lake Forest Park, popular with walkers and cyclists.

Burwood-Pegasus Community Board chairwoman Linda Stewart told Smith yesterday that nearby communities would be concerned about air pollutants – such as asbestos.

Smith said this concern could be addressed through consent conditions and down-played the impact of the dump on recreation users.

- The Press

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