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Published: 2013-11-22 00:00:00

Independent hearings commissioners have granted consents for the operation of a proposed municipal solid waste landfill at Rotowaro Rd, Glen Afton, which attracted extensive public submissions.

The commissioners – two appointed jointly by Waikato Regional Council and Waikato District Council, and one by the Waikato River Authority – decided the adverse environmental effects of the Puke Coal Limited landfill would be minor if consent conditions were adhered to.

They imposed a range of conditions, on the regional and district council consents, for the management of environmental impacts, including gas and odour management measures to minimise the potential for off-site odour effects.

The district council consent granted covers land use matters for the eight million cubic metre capacity landfill and associated activities over 20 hectares. Regional council consents cover discharge of waste to land; discharges of landfill gas, odour and dust to air; and discharge of leachate to land. A daily surface water take and stormwater discharge are also covered.

The land concerned is already the site of a construction and demolition waste landfill, and an active coal mine. The long history of underground coal mining at the site and complex geology means an investigation of coal mine tunnels in the area will be needed before landfill construction starts.

In making their decision, the commissioners considered evidence on a wide range of concerns about the proposed landfill, including odour, dust getting into water supplies, landfill design and leachate management, water quality, stream ecology and riparian habitat, pest control and final landform.

On the odour risks, the commissioners found that off-site effects could be minimised through various management measures. However, they remained concerned about odour impacts on nearby properties on Hangapipi Rd. As a result they directed that the landfill development commence further away from the nearest property than originally proposed. After, a period of operation in this initial area, the operator will be required to demonstrate that odour can be satisfactorily managed before further development of the landfill goes ahead.

On the potential for dust to get into roof and tank water, the commissioners found there should be no adverse dust effects as long as consent conditions were complied with.

They also did not believe the landfill’s operation would adversely impact on nearby surface water quality, stream ecology and riparian habitat, or increase risk to human health through consumption of food gathered from nearby waterways. Risks to groundwater were determined to be “no more than minor”.

The final landform design was considered to be appropriate.

A number of submitters were concerned the landfill would increase the risk of pest birds and vermin in the area, and it was noted more gulls and mynas could be a nuisance if not properly controlled. But the commissioners were confident consent conditions would ensure pest species could be minimised and controlled.

Besides finding that adverse environmental impacts could be managed by the conditions imposed, the commissioners also found that the landfill application was consistent with relevant council planning documents and the sustainable management purpose of the Resource Management Act.