'It's much worse' - opposition to landfill alternative in Kaipara District

By Mare Haimona-Riki

The Kaipara District Council is considering building a waste-to-energy incineration plant to replace landfills within the district.

Jacqui Forbes, an environmentalist and the founder of the non-profit organisation Parakore, believes that the plant is worse than a landfill, and the council should prioritize a zero waste, zero carbon future.

"Burning rubbish is worse because it only reduces the volume. You still have the waste but you've made that waste more toxic," she argues.

Kaipara Mayor Craig Jepson has extended discussion invitations to the Far North District Council, Whangārei District Council, Te Uri o Hau, Northland Inc, and Auckland Council as potential partners.

"The technological advancements are significant. With a waste-to-energy plant, you can monitor your emissions minute by minute, which is not possible with a landfill," he says.

These discussions follow a recent resource consent application for a large-scale landfill in Dome Valley, which locals claim will further contribute to the pollution of the Kaipara Harbour. Mayor Jepson believes that the waste-to-energy plant will offer additional benefits.

Kaipara District Council's alternative is no better, says Parakore.

'Eliminating 600 trucks a day'

"Wherever the plant may be located, we will transport the waste via rail, eliminating 600 trucks a day from the roads and reducing emissions to the Kaipara Harbour."

Waste-to-energy plants are advanced facilities that convert waste materials into usable energy, such as heat or electricity, through controlled combustion processes. 

They are a topic of debate, with supporters highlighting their potential to address waste management challenges and generate renewable energy.  However, concerns about environmental impacts, such as emissions and the potential for increased waste production, have resulted in calls for careful consideration of the technology and its long-term sustainability.

Forbes asserts that the government should intervene instead of leaving the final decision to local councils.

"I believe it is risky to expect local governments to become experts on this topic when we have no historical knowledge or understanding of this technology within our land here in Aotearoa."

Jepson says a report summarising the discussions with local councils will be considered next month.