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Waste disposal sites

Photograph of the new landfill at Te Kuiti.On this page: landfills, environmental effects, local effects, new sites, potential waste disposal sites, find out more

There are several open landfill sites in the Waikato region. Over 40 other landfills have recently closed. There are also several potential landfill sites proposed in the region. All sites must meet strict environmental criteria to get a resource consent.

Landfills

Most of the waste produced in the Waikato region ends up in a landfill. The standard of our region’s landfills is now as good or better than any other part of the country.

In 1999 there were 13 operating municipal landfills but only three had proper consents. Over 40 other landfill sites have recently closed as they could not meet modern environmental standards.

We now have only five operating landfills in our region and all have consents. These are located at:

  • Taupo
  • Te Kuiti
  • Paeroa (Tirohia)
  • Tokoroa
  • Hampton Downs.

The region's largest landfill is Hampton Downs, North Waikato and built on 386 hectares of ex-farmland.  The capacity of the Hampton Downs landfill is 30 million cubic metres and it is consented for 25 years, with 19 years remaining.  The location of the Hampton Downs site, and the open and closed landfills can be found on the  landfills map.

Most of the landfills are quite small, except for Hampton Downs, which receives around 600,000 tonnes of waste per year, and Tirohia which receives 120,000 tonnes waste per year. 

Effects on the environment

The presence of waste landfill sites in the region does not mean that the environment is degraded, but they do present a potential pressure on the environment. Many of the older landfill sites in the region were located beside streams or estuaries with little or no attempt to stop wastes discharging into water.

Poorly managed landfills often smell bad and have problems with vermin (rats and mice). They may burn spontaneously, are a source of windblown litter and look unsightly.

Some effects of landfills are not so easily seen. For example, contamination of ground and surface water and the release of greenhouse gases.

Leachate has the potential to contaminate ground water. Without extensive monitoring, there is no way to determine the extent of contamination. Leachate from some landfills within the region has contaminated surface and ground water.

As the organic matter in landfills rots, it gives off gases (mainly methane and carbon dioxide). Landfill gases are potentially explosive and are ‘greenhouse gases’. Find out more about greenhouse gases and how they may cause climate change.

Other problems associated with poorly operated or badly located landfills include:

  • poor surface water quality from sediment runoff
  • risks from land instability
  • illegal dumping of hazardous waste.

Local effects

An example of a landfill that has affected the state of the local environment is the Rototuna landfill (now closed) near Hamilton. Since the late 1990s remedial work has been done to reduce the amount of leachate escaping from the old landfill site. Most of leachate is now collected and taken to the Pukete sewage treatment plant for disposal.

A small number of industrial landfills receive waste from individual operations, for example, sawdust and bark from timber mills or mining waste. There are also an unknown number of small landfill sites, for example, farm dumps on private properties. The location of many other closed or industrial landfills is currently unknown.

Find out more about contaminated sites in the Waikato region.

New landfill sites

A well managed and appropriately located modern landfill with leachate collection, impermeable liners and landfill gas management systems is unlikely to have significant adverse effects on the environment. The resource consent process ensures that all sites meet strict environmental criteria.

Of the six landfill sites in the Waikato region, three (in Taupo, Te Kuiti and Tirohia) are modern sites. They have been commissioned over the last few years and have long-term consents.

The Taupo community has recently opened new landfill facilities to replace old sites that did not meet current environmental standards. Find out more about waste management in Taupo.

A new facility has been built at Te Kuiti to replace the landfill. It may also be used later by the Kawhia and Otorohanga communities.

Potential waste disposal sites

A number of new waste disposal sites have been proposed in the Waikato region, for example Hampton Downs. Some of these sites will receive waste from other parts of the country, particularly Auckland.

Importing waste into the region can damage our environment because of:

  • direct effects, such as the production of leachate and landfill gas
  • less direct effects from the use of road and rail transport, such as increased vehicle emissions and risk of accidents and spills.

Constructing new landfill sites that meet modern environmental standards is expensive. Because of this, the costs of waste disposal are rising. For example, households pay via rates and direct disposal charges.

New solid waste landfill sites are proposed at:

  • Hampton Downs
  • Tauhei (north of Morrinsville).

Any new waste landfill sites must first get a resource consent from Waikato Regional Council and the relevant territorial authority. These consents set management standards to help protect the environment.

Find out more

Find out about:

Check out X-treme Waste - a community organisation focussing on waste management in Raglan.