The fate of the 10,000 tonnes of Ouvea premix stored at the former Carter Holt Harvey paper mill in Mataura lies in the hands of the liquidator for now.
But if the liquidator decides the disposal of the premix is “onerous”, the responsibility will fall on the building owner, the council has acknowledged.
There were estimates of up to $9.5million to remove the Ouvea premix from all sites in Southland, Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks said.
A meeting was held to discuss the premix situation at the Mataura Community Centre on Friday night.
About 50 people from throughout the region gathered to discuss questions such as when the premix in the former paper mill will be moved and how that will be achieved.
Labour and Green Party representatives and local body representatives, including Michael Laws, also attended the meeting.
The owner of the premix, Taha Asia Pacific, went into liquidation in August last year.
Taha Fertilizer Industries was granted a retrospective resource consent by the Gore District Council to store Ouvea premix at the Mataura site on the banks of the Mataura River in 2015.
Taha Fertilizer Industries, which is also in liquidation, is an offshoot of Taha Asia Pacific.
Mr Hicks said at the meeting, the premix was lawfully allowed to be stored there until January next year, when the consent would run out.
The council was working on a solution with the liquidator and building owner Greg Paterson, he said.
Residents aired concerns about the premix becoming wet if water entered the building during a flood.
During a past flood, water had come up through the concrete floor in the paper mill, Aileen Meikle said.
All flood mitigation measures listed in the resource consent had been carried out, Mr Hicks said.
The chairwoman of the meeting, Labour Clutha-Southland candidate Cherie Chapman, asked whether the councils, including Environment Southland, could work together on a solution.
It was possible Government funding could be gained to help with the clean-up costs.
Wyndham Angling Club member Alan Leitch said if the premix got into the Mataura River, the effects would be worse downstream.
“We don’t want it down our river,” Mr Leitch said.
Mr Laws, who represented the building owner, said the liquidator had been looking for a buyer for the premix for about a year and he did not think a solution was much closer.
Even if the product was sold, it would cost millions of dollars to transport it to another location, Mr Laws said.
The Gore District Council was supposed to be responsible for weekly gas monitoring at the site and those reports were supposed to be made public under the terms of the resource consent, Mr Laws said.
Mr Laws questioned whether Taha’s consent was valid, as the bond of $2.3million was never paid to the council.
After the meeting, Mr Hicks said Taha had appealed the bond and it was before the Environment Court when the company went into liquidation.
But the Environment Court ruled the rest of the consent would stay in place despite the bond being in dispute, he said.
He was investigating who was responsible for the monitoring and would make the reports public, Mr Hicks said.
Liquidator Rhys Cain, speaking to the meeting via cellphone, said he was getting closer to finding a buyer for the premix.
He and others involved were working hard on finding a solution.
“It’s just not going to happen immediately,” Mr Cain said.
He had sent samples of the premix for analysis for prospective buyers, he said.
He was looking for a buyer who would foot the cost of transport.
But there might be a cost to transport it to Bluff.
Among other options outlined building a stabilisation plant in Southland to carry out the work Taha originally intended to do.
Mr Cain agreed that was not a short-term solution.
It was decided to form a committee of interested people to work towards advancing the removal of the premix.