Mediation produces ‘practical solutions’

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Graffiti on the old paper mill in Mataura makes the community's feelings about the dross very clear.

“PRACTICAL solutions” have been tabled following mediation about the hazardous substance stored in Mataura, an environment judge says.

Possibilities for the removal of the hazardous substance ouvea premix stored at the town’s former paper mill are on the table following two days of mediation last week.

Environment Judge Laurie Newhook took the unusual step of issuing a minute after mediation between the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) and New Zealand’s Aluminium Smelter (NZAS).

In it, he says robust discussions resulted in constructive, practical solutions tabled.

EDS filed declaration proceedings against NZAS in July.

The EDS application states NZAS breached its discharge permit when the aluminium dross was removed off-site from the Tiwai Point smelter, and it is responsible for removing the dross by-products from the Mataura site.

About 8500 tonnes of premix was stored in the building on the banks of the Mataura River, which was owned by Southland Storage Ltd.

The premix could produce poisonous ammonia gas if it came into contact with water, which caused concern during the February floods.

NZAS had filed a notice of opposition, which stated it acted reasonably in contracting Taha, which had the responsibility over the material as it was processed into the ouvea premix.

It said there was no breach of its discharge permit when it allowed Taha to take the material off its site.

Under contract with NZAS, Taha Asia Pacific began storing the premix at the mill in 2014, but it went into liquidation in 2016.

Judge Newhook said he issued the minute “because of the high level of public interest and because I have directed the parties to confine their discussions to the conference parties and not beyond its confidential confines”.

He said the contractual arrangements for the removal of the ouvea premix were operating ahead of the originally anticipated timetable, but parties were working on developing “considerably faster” arrangements.

Under the agreement, it would be gone by 2022.

Interested parties included the Minister for the Environment, the Gore District Council, Southland Storage Ltd and Southland Regional Council.

Judge Newhook directed a resumption of the settlement conference for September 28, with a view to finalising solutions.

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