Gelatine plant fix 'beyond a joke'

ABBIE NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 23/01/2014
Alasdair  and Zak Cassels
STACY SQUIRES/Fairfax NZ

OUT OF POCKET: The Tannery owner Alasdair Cassels and son Zak, will oppose Gelita's application.

Threads of gelatine can be seen in this photograph showing some of the plant from the factory in Woolston.
Fairfax NZ
GOOEY GOODNESS: Threads of gelatine can be seen in this photograph showing some of the plant from the factory in Woolston.

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Residents plagued by smells emanating from a Christchurch gelatine factory face three more years of odours.

Gelita, a Woolston gelatine manufacturer, has applied to Environment Canterbury for leniency while it fixes the problem.

If its application was turned down, Gelita said it would be "fined out of existence".

The current resource consent forbids any offensive odours and Gelita was fined by ECan three times last January.

Gelita's application asked for a three-year grace period, where "occasional" discharge of offensive odours - likened to the smell of rotting flesh - would not incur a fine.

In exchange, it laid out a timeline for repairs to the factory, which suffered $20 million in damage during the 2011 earthquakes and snowstorms.

Completed repairs, said Gelita, meant an end to the stench which prompted more than 160 complaints to ECan in the last year.

Without the variation, the burden of fines and repair costs under the current conditions could see the factory shut down permanently, meaning 60 lost jobs, Gelita factory manager Gary Monk said.

However Alasdair Cassels, owner of nearby development The Tannery, said Gelita should not be granted another three years grace.

"Basically the whole place stinks," he said. "They're breaking the law and they've had long enough to fix it.

"It's far too little, far too late."

Cassels said he had a hefty law suit pending against Gelita for loss of earnings as customers fled from the smell on bad days. He also had to reduce the rent charged for retail space in The Tannery, and considered his $20 million development's future on the line.

He could not continue to absorb lost income.

"If they operated within their consent there wouldn't be an issue," Cassels said. "ECan have sat on their hands and done nothing."

While Gelita employed about 60 people, The Tannery provided more than 400 jobs and had the potential to be "the biggest tourist attraction in Christchurch", Cassels said.

Monk said factory repairs were expensive and finding solutions had taken time.

He said significant repairs to reduce smell had been made in the last year. As repairs progressed over the next three years, it was likely any occasional smell would be less intense.

Cassels said the smell got so bad last week he made three separate complaints to ECan.

Melanie Ryan, who moved into nearby Lane St just before Christmas, said the smell of "dead animals" last week was unbearable.

"If we had to smell that any longer it'd be pretty awful," she said. "We don't plan on staying here long."

Cassels said a good solution would be temporary closure of the factory for repairs.

Monk said the cost to the company would be too great and would likely force permanent closure.

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- The Press

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