Update Thursday 8 February 2.40pm
The country’s stance on waste to energy plants could become standardised as a result of a Waipā District Council decision, the company behind an application for one in Te Awamutu believes.
Global Contracting Solutions was commenting after Waipā followed Waikato Regional Council’s lead by asking Environment minister Penny Simmonds to “call in” a resource consent application for an incineration plant, called Paewira, in Racecourse Rd.
That would send the matter to the Environment Court, in the same way a plant application near Oamaru has been “called in”.
Global Contracting Solutions project leader Roger Wilson believed the call-in resolution moved the consent decision to a New Zealand wide consideration.
“Anecdotal evidence from around the world demonstrates energy-from-waste has a role in the waste hierarchy and a facility with the proposed technology and scale is entirely appropriate,” he said.
But Wilson prefaced those comments by expressing disappointment that councils had taken the approach they have.
“We consider the Resource Management Act to prescribe a process for this type of decision to be made at a local level. We take some confidence with neither local government body being able to raise a reason to outright decline the application,” he said.
7 February Update 4pm
The decision to “call in” the application to build a waste to energy plant in Te Awamutu has been welcomed by a lobby group opposed to it.
“We believe that calling-in the application is a good thing because a similar incinerator application in Waimate has already been called in,” Don’t Burn Waipā spokesperson Eoin Fitzpatrick said.
“If our application also goes to the [Environment] Court a consistent approach to both applications can be made. The factors that influenced the minister to call in the Waimate proposal also apply here so we are optimistic of the outcome even though we now have a different government and minister.”
Calling in an application invites a minister to refer the matter to the Environment Court and takes the decision making out of the hands of local government.
Waikato Regional Council made the decision before the turn of the year and Waipā followed suit yesterday.
Last September the Waimate District Council and Environment Canterbury asked then Environment Minister David Parker to step in after South Island Resource Recovery Limited sought approval for a waste to energy plant near the township of Glenavy, about 23km north of Oamaru.
Fitzpatrick said the lobby group was “busy preparing for a long haul” and said it wanted to set up a group that would represent the whole community.
It may be the group would bring in lawyers and experts to support their position.
The company behind the Racecourse Rd proposal will argue that as a Māori owned company it has some iwi backing in Waipā.
Waipā District Council has asked the environment minister to review the application for a giant incinerator in Te Awamutu.
The recommendation, approved by group manager Wayne Allan for yesterday’s Strategic Planning and Policy committee, was hardly a surprise – and councillors agreed.
Two committee members – Cr Dale-Maree Morgan and Bill Harris – declared a conflict of interest and took no part in the debate which also recommended any national hearing should take place in Te Awamutu.
Waikato Regional Council “passed in” the application from Global Energy Solutions late last year – the decision was made at staff level. Staff from both councils discussed the issue, but at Waipā the decision is made by elected councillors. Waipā’s Strategic Planning and Policy committee had it as a 30 minute agenda item yesterday morning.
The application is one of two plans in the headlines for Waipā – in Pirongia the decision to go ahead with a cell phone tower in the town centre will be opposed by a reformed lobby group. See that story today on page 3.
There has been strong lobbying – including a street march – opposed to the Paewira incineration plant, and that would surely result in hostilities towards either council if the proposal was approved at local level.
Global Contracting Solutions Limited plans to build a plant in Racecourse Road to incinerate 150,000 tonnes of rubbish a year, recover 80 tonnes of recyclable materials a day and generate enough energy to power 15,000 homes.
District Growth manager Wendy Robinson said of the two options open to council – use independent commissioners or request a call in – the latter was recommended because it would ensure “the ability for cohesive processing of the local authority resource consents which would provide clear and consistent decision making, is less confusing for the community and others involved, and not as expensive for the applicant compared to if there were two hearing processes”.
It was possible Environment minister Penny Simmonds may “call in” the application anyway – because the regional council has gone down that path. The minister had not planned to make a decision before Waipā announced its intentions.
Simmonds has been the National MP for Invercargill since 2020 but sits outside Cabinet.
Debate over the plant was considerable in August through to October last year.
In August Zero Waste Network general manager Dorte Gray, announced “we worked with the Feilding community and mana whenua to stop the waste-to-energy proposal in Feilding. We will do the same in Te Awamutu.”
He said incinerators were just another form of disposal like landfill and “this one would have a dramatic climate impact”.
Te Awamutu-Kihikihi Community Board members also voiced their opposition and heard from both sides last October.
Before this week the matter had not been discussed in public by Waipā district councillors.
The council received almost 900 responses after advertising the application to build the plant – the most it has received for a resource consent application and the “vast majority” opposed it, a council statement announced in October. That month a street protest behind the a ‘Don’t Burn Waipā’ banner was held in Te Awamutu.
The company behind the plan, Global Contracting Solutions, presents an entirely different picture of the proposal and says it is a Māori owned company with mana whenua support.
In December its national business manager Roger Wilson said it was appreciated many New Zealanders would not be familiar with the benefits of the energy from waste plant process, or the positive environmental impact it would have, “especially compared to traditional waste processes like landfill and thermal electricity generation in Aotearoa New Zealand”.