Ministers asked for help with premix problem

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Letters have been sent to Minister for the Environment David Parker and Minister of Finance Grant Robertson by Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks requesting a meeting to find a way to remove ouvea premix stored in venues throughout Southland, including Mataura.

Having to find a way to remove 10,000 tonnes of ouvea premix stored in the former Carter Holt Harvey Mataura paper mill was a Christmas present the Gore District Council could do without, Mr Hicks said.

The liquidators of Taha Fertilizer Industries have disclaimed responsibility for the remaining 22,000 tonnes of ouvea stored at various locations in Southland, including the former paper mill.

Taha Asia Pacific went into liquidation in August last year, but the company’s store of premix still sits in the former paper mill.

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.

Mr Hicks wrote the letters on behalf of the Southland Mayoral Forum in his role as chairman.

The Southland mayors were keen to discuss any assistance the government agencies could offer, Mr Hicks said.

While there was concern about all the sites the material was stored in, the Gore District Council had specific concerns about the Mataura site.

Several possible solutions had been identified, but all came with challenges, Mr Hicks said.

Questions such as who owned the product and who was responsible for adhering to the consent needed to be answered.

“There are quite a lot of legal issues to clarify.”

Mr Hicks emphasised the council did not want to expose residents to toxic residue, put the environment at risk, or place the burden of extra costs to transport the material on ratepayers.

Monitoring showed there was no detectable toxicity in ambient air outside the paper mill building.

“Gore District Council is doing everything to make sure the conditions of the consent are adhered to.”

The situation was “incredibly frustrating”, he said.

Council chief executive Steve Parry said there were two main options.

The council could go down the legal track, which would be complex and less than clear-cut. The other option involved requesting a meeting with relevant government ministers, which could be more fruitful.

Mr Parry and Mr Hicks both commended liquidator Rhys Cain for his efforts to find a solution.