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Published: 2007-08-22 00:00:00

A finding by the Environment Court that the cumulative effect of low level unpleasant odour can be considered objectionable is being labeled a “landmark” case by Environment Waikato.

The court has ruled that chronic low level odours discharged from New Zealand Mushrooms Ltd’s mushroom composting site in Morrinsville are offensive to neighbours and must be contained.

“This is a very significant decision because it is the first time evidence of chronic odour effects have been explicitly dealt with,” Environment Waikato processing industry programme manager David Stagg said.

“The court has ruled that the cumulative effect of unpleasant odours can be considered objectionable, even if individual odour events are not bad enough to be considered objectionable on their own.”

In an interim decision released on July 23, the court instructed New Zealand Mushrooms Ltd to make further upgrades to its Taukoro Rd site to contain offensive or objectionable odours within the property boundary.

The court said operational improvements at the site that had been largely put in place designed to eliminate odour nuisance had “not succeeded in eliminating significant adverse chronic odour effects, or offensive and objectionable effects”.

“Neighbours of the site should not be subject to objectionable and offensive odours from it,” the court said.

“Even taking into account the substantial beneficial effects of New Zealand Mushrooms’ operations and weighting those benefits as high as we can in our consideration we are of the view that the neighbours should not have to pay the environmental price in the form of offensive and objectionable odours which they presently do.”

Speaking at Environment Waikato’s Regulatory Committee meeting in Hamilton recently, Mr Stagg said the council had received complaints from neighbours of the Taukoro Rd site for a number of years, with the majority of those recently affected being from long standing farming families adjacent to the site.

Environment Waikato and Matamata-Piako District Council had granted New Zealand Mushrooms resource consents to expand its composting operation at a joint hearing in Morrinsville in 2005.

However, the Waikato Environmental Protection Society and two individuals appealed the councils’ decisions to the Environment Court due to concerns about odour effects.

At the hearing, Environment Waikato changed its stance and sought additional controls on odour because, despite significant expenditure on improvements at the mushroom composting plant, evidence of persistent odour effects was found after the consents were granted.

New Zealand Mushrooms Ltd has appealed the Environment Court decision to the High Court.