Declined landfill plan change brings new hope for cleaner future for iwi

By James Perry

A request by Waste Management New Zealand (WMNZ) to have a section of Dome Valley, north of Auckland City, re-designated under the Auckland Council's Unitary Plan as a 'landfill precinct' has been declined. 

The same panel of commissioners, who earlier this year in a split decision granted resource consent to WMNZ for a landfill in the Dome Valley, declined the request unanimously. 

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua CEO, Alan Riwaka, told Te Ao Māori News he was pleased with the latest decision but says there is still a lot of water to go under the bridge. 

"Our preference would be to sit down and talk, which should have happened in the first instance. That never did that happen.

"It's not really talking about mitigation for this proposal they [WMNZ] have - that's the last thing we want. If there's any mitigation, then it's to do with alternative methods of waste disposal," he said.

One of the alternative methods of waste disposal Riwaka would like to see discussed and implemented is a form of waste to energy. Something he said he has approached groups including WMNZ about previously as a means of disposing of rubbish in Aotearoa.

"There are very viable options for waste to energy that could be applied. But the cheapest form of waste management is in a landfill," he said.

He says there are opportunities now to develop forms of waste to energy in Aotearoa that could also solve issues of waste management in the Pacific.

"The proposal I was looking at you could bring all of the waste from the whole Pacific to one place, and dispose of it in a waste to energy plant. The upgrades on technology make it a lot better than it used to."

He said examples from around the world that have waste to energy plants show water and power issues, particularly in Auckland, could also be solved.

"If you have a waste to energy plant, you can set up a dissemination plant that goes with them and can create up to produce 150,000 tonnes of water a day out of the sea. And we get access to power out of the waste," says Riwaka.

Riwaka adds that discussions he has had with people within WMNZ indicate they would be open to exploring waste to energy options if regulations around waste disposal were changed by central and local governments.

"So in part, the government is to blame for some of the problems that we're confronting. And Auckland Council should be taking some brunt as well. We've got a nationwide problem. 

"But, if these options are able to be applied in New Zealand, then we would certainly want to support that as an alternative to landfills," Riwaka says.

Friday's decision to decline the application, known as PC42, does not affect the resource consent for the landfill itself that was granted in June.

Ngāti Whātua and seven other parties, including Ngāti Manuhiri, have appealed the decision to allow the landfill to the Environment Court, and that process is ongoing.

Riwaka says Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua has incurred "hundreds of thousands" in expenses fighting the proposed landfill that will see much of Auckland's waste dumped in the thickly forested area near Warkworth. 

WMNZ has 30 working days to appeal the decision made on Friday.

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