After years of public concern about the storage of ouvea premix in the former Mataura paper mill, its removal should occur within three months.
The Gore District Council has secured a contract with Australian-based company Inalco Processing Ltd which will lead to the removal of 22,000 tonnes of the substance – fertiliser premix made from aluminium dross – from sites in Mataura and Invercargill over the next six years.
The premix was stored in the building by Taha Fertiliser Industries without a resource consent in 2014.
The company’s plans to use the site for a fertiliser processing plant and turn the premix into fertiliser were opposed at a public meeting that year.
In 2015, 63 public submissions were received by the Gore District Council in response to a Taha Fertilisers Industries retrospective resource consent application to store the premix in the mill.
The company went into receivership in 2016.
The Mataura Dross Action Group was formed in 2017 to lobby for the removal of the premix.
Group spokeswoman Laurel Turnbull said she was pleased that a plan to remove the premix had finally been decided on.
“We’ve been waiting for this for the last couple of years now.
“It sounds like it’s all go now,” Mrs Turnbull said.
Mataura Community Board chairman Alan Taylor said it was good to have the matter resolved.
“There were certainly concerns about [the premix] in the community right from the start.
“Both within the community . and the residents further downstream, all had concerns just where [the premix] had been stored.”
Council chief executive Stephen Parry said the contract ensured the 10,000 tonnes of premix stored at the Mataura paper mill would be moved first.
“This acknowledges the significant risks posed to both the environment and people by having the premix stored next to the Mataura River,” Mr Parry said.
There were logistical details to work through and Inalco was required to provide a risk management plan before removal could begin.
“It’s important we take all precautions to ensure the transfer of the premix doesn’t put the community or environment at risk.
“This is a hazardous substance and needs to be treated with respect.”
The ouvea premix will be transported to Inalco’s processing facility, located at the New Zealand Aluminium Smelter site south of Invercargill, where it will be processed and converted into a raw material for future use.
Part of the cost of shifting the premix, which totals $400,000, would be paid on a per capita basis between Invercargill City Council, Southland District Council and Gore District Council.
Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks said it was pleasing to get a solution that would relieve the anxiety of Mataura residents.
“The council has been conscious of the community’s concerns but we’ve had to work through a complicated process, involving multiple parties.”
Mr Hicks paid tribute to the efforts of Mr Parry who had been at the forefront of securing a deal acceptable to all involved.