Meeting raises burning issues

Environmental groups have made dire claims about the proposed waste to energy plant for Te Awamutu’s Racecourse Road, causing residents to seek further clarity on the proposal.

An artist’s impression of how the site might look.

As part of their Regeneration Not Incineration Campaign, Zero Waste Network Aotearoa (ZWNA) invited residents to discuss Global Contracting Solutions’ (GCS) proposed plant in an online meeting, which took place last Wednesday.

The Te Awamutu News broke the story about the plans on February 19, reporting Te Awamutu homes could be powered by the country’s first waste-to-energy plant.

The Paewira plant would process 150,000 tonnes of waste derived fuel annually and produce 15 megawatts of power. GCS is going through a resource consent process for the plant.

But it is opposed by activist and Regeneration Not Incineration coordinator, Valerie Morse, who chaired last week’s discussion, which involved around 45 people.

Environmental groups Go Eco and Para Kore were present, as well as residents, including Te Awamutu Community Board chair Ange Holt, who lives next to the proposed build site.

Morse said the plant would emit mercury, cyanide and cancer causing dioxins, pollute the surrounding land, water and air, and create noise and other disruptions for neighbouring residents.

“This is a toxic nightmare for the community, for the whole of the region,” she said. “The smell of those tyres burning will fill the community with an unbelievable stench.”

Morse raised concerns about GCS’ transparency with the community. In their application, GCS asked that their resource consent not be notified to the public.

“They’re basically saying the effects are so minor of burning 160,000 tonnes of rubbish every year, that actually we are not even going to bother to notify the next-door neighbours.”

There were also claims that the proposed plant would pollute the Mangapiko Stream through the discharge of both storm and wastewater.

Global Contracting Solutions previously told The News they would send their water to filtration plants that were offsite, and not take from or contribute to the stream. Morse said ZWNA had not contacted GCS about their proposal.

Sue Coutts, ZWNA director of external affairs, said fundamentally waste to energy plants created a demand for waste, and did not incentivise its reduction.

“Any kind of waste to energy proposal is contrary to a circular economy,” she said.

Coutts said instead of waste to energy plants, the focus should be on renewable energy, and making manufacturers responsible for the waste they create through disposable products.

“It is actually really simple, all we have to do is stop burning stuff and throwing stuff away, and then we will keep it in our economy and use it again… the really simple answer to not needing to extract materials, and not needing to incinerate, is just to keep recycling and composting,” she said.

Global Contracting Solution’s proposal has a recycling component, which was not discussed in the meeting.

Ange Holt

Holt, a “greenie at heart,” says she wants more clarity around the proposal, and some of the statements that were made last week.

“Is there a place for a thing like this in the interim, to keep the balance of stuff out of landfills? That is the million-dollar question,” she told The News.

“I am going to do a bit of research when I have the time.”

Global Contracting Solutions has indicated it will review the concerns raised at the meeting and address them in The News next week.

Read more: Power from waste – Recycling plant would be a first

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