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Published: 2009-02-09 00:00:00

Environment Waikato has advised the Environment Court that it supports a bid by New Zealand Mushrooms to extend the operation of its current Morrinsville composting operation until the end of 2010.

"We have decided to support this proposal as to not do so could result in very significant social and economic impacts for this part of the regional community, and NZ Mushroom’s proposal offers certainty that the composting operation will shut completely by the end of next year," said EW resource use programme manager David Stagg.

The composting operation in Taukoro Rd has led to ongoing complaints from neighbours over offensive odours, and Environment Waikato has prosecuted NZ Mushrooms for the discharge of offensive odour.

In a separate consent appeal case involving the company, an interim court decision released last year said NZ Mushrooms would either have to shut the composting plant or enclose it to prevent offensive odour beyond the property boundary.

That interim decision led the company to investigate enclosing its activities to help prevent odour releases, followed by a planned shut down after five years. But NZ Mushrooms found the costs were too great.

The company has now asked the court to let it operate as it is for two years to enable it to expand its Canterbury site and then source its compost from there. NZ Mushrooms said this would allow the company to retain the mushroom growing operation and its 160 jobs. It has said the alternative to this proposal is to shut immediately with the loss of all jobs at its Morrinsville operations.

Mr Stagg said the definition of the purpose of the Resource Management Act included EW enabling people to provide for their social and economic well-being, while avoiding, remedying or mitigating adverse effects, and it was on this basis that EW supported the proposal.

"We believe NZ Mushrooms’ solution would follow this principle as it avoids the loss of jobs while ensuring the end of the odours within a defined period.

"If the enclosure requirement in the court’s interim decision was followed, it is still possible there would have been odour, probably at a low level, for up to a further five years under NZ Mushrooms’ plans.

"We have the difficult task of weighing up the conflicting circumstances in cases like this and believe our position is the right one having considered environmental, social and economic factors."

Mr Stagg also stated that the decision on the future of the NZ Mushrooms operation lay entirely with the court, and that EW’s opinion was just one of a number that the court would consider in making its decision.