Landfill disasters down south confirm campaigners’ fears

Michelle Carmichael, right, on the banks of the Kaipara Harbour at Point Albert presents a petition to Northland National MP Matt King and Labour list MP Marja Lubeck urging the Government to ban landfills near waterways.

Campaigners against the proposed landfill in the Dome Valley say their worst fears have turned into reality with recent environmental disasters at waste disposal sites in the Waikato and on the West Coast.

Fight the Tip: Tiaki te Whenua executive member Michelle Carmichael said the recent landfill fire at Hampton Downs and storms that caused a former Fox Glacier landfill to breach, spilling rubbish onto West Coast beaches, both proved that Waste Management’s plans for new dump south of Wayby were “a recipe for disaster”.

“It is clear since the Fox River landfill disaster that our petition to Parliament to ban landfills near waterways is just plain common sense,” she said. “We have been given a glimpse of a possible future in which any failure of the Dome Valley landfill will result in plastics and contaminants reaching the Hoteo River and Kaipara Harbour.”

She added that if a major fire could happen at Hampton Downs, a modern, operational landfill, there was no reason why it couldn’t happen in the Dome, and said it could be even more hazardous there.

“I don’t believe a fire at the Dome Valley landfill could be as easily contained as the Hampton Downs site, given that the Dome is surrounded by forest, would be less accessible for emergency services, is adjacent to a Department of Conservation reserve and has the gas line from Marsden Point in the area that Waste Management wants to pipe its landfill gas to,” she said.

She added that a fire could damage the landfill liner, limiting its ability to prevent leachate from entering the ground water.

Ms Carmichael urged the government to put an immediate stop to all future landfills.

“We need to manage our waste much better and no more NZ land and waterways should be put at risk for future generations until a complete review is done,” she said.

Waste Management’s managing director, Tom Nickels, said he was unable to comment in depth on the Hampton Downs incident, as he did not have details of the cause of the fire.

With regards to the Fox River breach, he said this was one of many old tips across New Zealand that had often been poorly sited, designed and managed in the past. However, he said Government guidelines and legislation since 1991 had increased awareness of the risks associated with such tips and required all new sites to meet significantly higher engineered standards.

“The WasteMINZ Technical Guidelines for Disposal to Land 2016 (revised in 2018), which are in the process of being adopted by the Ministry for the Environment, are now considered best practice for modern engineered landfills, and will be followed by Waste Management at our proposed facility in Wayby,” Mr Nickels said.

“These guidelines mitigate against future Fox River events through a range of practices, including site selection, stormwater management, liner systems, leachate and gas management, and careful design and management of a modern landfill. In addition, ensuring application of the guidelines and monitoring of Waste Management’s adherence to them occurs throughout the life of the landfill under the Resource Management Act.”

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