Res­i­dents: ‘What about us?’

Maisy Rain was born while the earth shook vi­o­lently around her

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE - JENNIFER EDER

A de­ci­sion to block plans for a new preschool next to a Blen­heim sawmill over pos­si­ble toxic emis­sions has nearby res­i­dents won­der­ing ‘‘what about us?’’

Some peo­ple liv­ing close to the Tim­ber­link sawmill say the de­ci­sion has re­newed their fears about what ex­actly is waft­ing over their homes from the sawmill’s chimney.

While some par­ents, who al­ready send their chil­dren to an ex­ist­ing pri­mary school over the river, say they are wor­ried their chil­dren could be breath­ing in toxic fumes.

But oth­ers say they trust the Marl­bor­ough District Coun­cil is mon­i­tor­ing the site cor­rectly.

The preschool pro­posed for Birch­wood Ave was re­fused re­source con­sent ear­lier this month be­cause a com­mis­sioner was not con­vinced there were no harm­ful health ef­fects from the nearby Tim­ber­link kiln.

NZ Air con­sul­tant Dono­van Van Kekem wrote a re­port on air qual­ity for the preschool con­sent hear­ing, but could not con­firm there was no health risk from Tim­ber­link be­cause he could not visit the site.

Pro­longed ex­po­sure to chromium, cop­per and ar­senic emis­sions, a com­mon byprod­uct of dry­ing treated wood, could be harm­ful to chil­dren, he said.

The de­ci­sion came as sev­eral prop­er­ties in new nearby sub­di­vi­sions Burleigh Es­tate and Omaka Land­ing went on the mar­ket.

A Burleigh Rd res­i­dent, who would not be named, said she had al­ways won­dered what ef­fect Tim­ber­link’s emis­sions had on her fam­ily’s health.

‘‘That de­ci­sion does make me con­cerned. Per­haps it’s not as harm­ful as it seems, but it’s the not know­ing that’s the prob­lem. It does make you won­der ‘what about us?’’’

A Rich­mond View School par­ent, who would not be named, said the com­mis­sioner’s de­ci­sion took her con­cerns about smoke and steam from the plant to a new level.

‘‘It had crossed my mind it could be harm­ful. But I as­sumed that for the school to be put here, they must have run some tests to check it was OK.

‘‘Know­ing about the de­ci­sion does make me more con­cerned. If you think about what’s at stake for the chil­dren here [at Rich­mond View School], and the con­cerns that have been raised, maybe Tim­ber­link needs to come clean about what’s go­ing on.’’

Tim­ber­link chief ex­ec­u­tive Ian Tyson said there was no cause for con­cern, and he did not un­der­stand why peo­ple were wor­ried.

‘‘We’re not do­ing any­thing that’s not com­pli­ant or stan­dard in the in­dus­try.’’

Tyson was not aware Van Kekem was pre­vented from vis­it­ing the Blen­heim site for his re­port, he said. ‘‘I don’t know who he spoke to, I have no knowl­edge of that.’’

Tyson had no in­ter­est in read­ing the re­port or the com­mis­sioner’s de­ci­sion, he said.

‘‘The de­ci­sion on the child­care cen­tre has noth­ing to do with us. We’re not the ap­pli­cant, our re­spon­si­bil­ity is to com­ply with our re­source con­sents and that’s what we’re do­ing. What­ever the com­mis­sioner’s view was, that’s up to him.

‘‘We bought the busi­ness a few years ago and we’ve made a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment into it. We’ve put $10 mil­lion into it and in­creased em­ploy­ment by 50 jobs, and we’ve got good re­la­tion­ships with our neigh­bours. Tim­ber­link is a good news story, re­ally.’’

Rich­mond View School par­ent Chris McKelvey said he was not wor­ried about air­borne emis­sions from Tim­ber­link.

‘‘I used to work in a place that burnt ny­lon fi­bre, and there was a lot of stuff we had to do to meet stan­dards about air qual­ity. And it’s no dif­fer­ent for Tim­ber­link. You get a bit of smoke when the burn­ers start up but as long as it’s done the right way, I wouldn’t be wor­ried.

‘‘They’ll be get­ting mon­i­tored closely by the coun­cil too, so as long as they’re get­ting mon­i­tored prop­erly, I can’t see what the prob­lem is.’’

Rich­mond View School prin­ci­pal Dave Paul­ing de­clined to com­ment.

A woman, who lived across the river from Tim­ber­link, said smoke from the mill’s chimney could be ir­ri­tat­ing but she doubted it was caus­ing health prob­lems.

‘‘We live by the school and it’s no prob­lem for us. I do agree the smoke is a prob­lem but the tim­ber mill has been there a long time and when you build be­side some­thing, you can’t com­plain too much.’’

The Marl­bor­ough District Coun­cil pro­vided a re­view of Tim­ber­link’s re­source con­sents for com­mis­sioner Jeremy But­ler, say­ing it was sat­is­fied the com­pany was com­pli­ant, but But­ler said the re­view raised ‘‘sub­stan­tial un­cer­tain­ties’’ around the knowl­edge of ‘‘po­ten­tial ad­verse ef­fects’’.

PHOTO: STUFF

Tim­ber­link chief ex­ec­u­tive Ian Tyson says the Blen­heim sawmill is com­ply­ing with its re­source con­sents.

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