Govt urged to act on removal of toxic waste

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    Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks talks to the 400-strong crowd at the Mataura Youth Trust Hall on Friday night. Photo: Karen Pasco

    MATAURA residents stood up last week and asked central Government to rid their community of dross.

    It was a request made by about 400 people who turned out to what became a volatile and angry meeting.

    The people of Mataura wanted to know when the hazardous material would be removed from their township. The answer never came upset and vocal.

    The meeting discussed dross including ouvea which, when combined with water, could generate poisonous ammonia gas.

    The ouvea situation was highlighted during recent weeks when floodwater threatened its stability. However, it remained safe.

    Talking heads from different organisations were laughed at and heckled as the evening continued.

    Tension eased slightly when Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt walked in late with deputy mayor Toni Biddle crowd applauded.

    Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Emergency Management Southland, Mr Hicks and others spoke about either the history of ouvea in the area, or the situation with the dross during the floods.

    Sort Out the Dross member Cherie Chapman said the organisation had been working for six years to try to get all parties to take responsibility for the storage of the dross, including the ouvea premix, and to try to work through a solution.

    Director for the Ministry for the Environment Shaun Lewis said he had a conversation with the parties involved before Friday’s public meeting.

    “We’ve got some ideas for where these materials will go.

    “The location we’re looking at is designed to take this kind of stuff. It’s bunded, it’s got concrete walls and it’s got ammonia monitors. It’s designed to take hazardous materials.”

    The ministry was continuing to look at legal options and making Mataura safe, he said.

    There would be a meeting this week to try to fast-track the process and he gave a timeframe of four to six months to have the dross removed.

    Ms Biddle said the people of Southland had the opportunity to come together and hold the Government to task. “I feel really sad this evening because I feel as if we’re missing a really big opportunity, here,” she said. She apologised to the crowd for what they had had to endure but said the town had an opportunity, with a national news camera present, to make a plea to Government.

    well be it, to stand the hell up and stick together and to say to our Government members have tried to sort this s**t for years’.

    “You need to stand up and if Rio Tinto don’t come to the table we ask our elected members for the region to help Southland.

    “You need to do that tonight for our generation and all the rest to come, I’m begging you.”

    Ms Chapman then asked the crowd to pass a resolution to urge the Government to act now and remove the toxic waste from Southland. The crowd was unanimous in its support. Another meeting was planned for six weeks’ time to keep the community informed on progress.

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