Mataura pre­mix move could take a year

The Southland Times - - FRONT PAGE - RACHAEL KELLY

The Fe­bru­ary storm that re­sulted in the Pyra­mid Bridge col­laps­ing near Gore could have had far more dire con­se­quences.

Gore District Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Steve Parry said En­vi­ron­ment South­land modelling for the storm showed the Mataura River could have breached its banks at Mataura, which could have flooded the pa­per mill build­ing where about 10,000 tonnes of ou­vea pre­mix is be­ing stored.

The pre­mix can pro­duce the highly cor­ro­sive am­mo­nia gas if it gets wet, and the for­mer pa­per mill build­ing is next to the river.

‘‘There were al­most in­vol­un­tary bowel move­ments when we knew that. We could have been very close to an en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter.’’

The pre­mix was orig­i­nally owned by Taha Asia Pa­cific, which went into liq­ui­da­tion in 2016.

Taha had a con­tract with the Ti­wai alu­minium smelter to take the smelter’s dross, ex­tract the alu­minium for reuse in the smelter, and process the re­main­der into ou­vea pre­mix, which could be pro­cessed into fer­tiliser.

How­ever, when Taha went into liq­ui­da­tion the ou­vea pre­mix re­mained stored in sheds around South­land. Part of Taha’s re­source con­sent had in­cluded build­ing a flood pro­tec­tion wall to pro­tect the pre­mix from a flood of the Mataura River or the Waikana Stream.

‘‘Taha ob­vi­ously didn’t do that be­cause they went into re­ceiver­ship but the land­lord, Greg Pater­son, has. The modelling was early, but we’re a sit­ting duck. We’ve got 10,000 tonnes in there so we have to fo­cus on pol­lu­tion re­ally.

‘‘South­land has been very lucky with the weather. All the weather bombs have been in the North Is­land but our time will come and we have to hope that is not in the next 12 to 18 months.’’

The coun­cil is con­tin­u­ing to mon­i­tor the site for any am­mo­nia gas, he said.

The storm modelling gal­vanised the need to re­move the pre­mix, which was be­ing stored in the build­ing and at sites at Awarua and In­ver­cargill when , Taha went into liq­ui­da­tion.

A fund­ing pack­age that was broadly agreed to be­tween NZ Alu­minium Smelters, the Crown, southern lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and the land­lords of sites where the pre­mix is stored was an­nounced in March.

‘‘Part of that deal is that the pre­mix would be re­moved from Mataura first be­cause it has the high­est risk.’’

NZAS and the Gov­ern­ment com­bined would cover 75 per cent of costs, with southern coun­cils and land­lords pay­ing the re­main­der.

Parry said he hoped work to start mov­ing the pre­mix would start in the next few months but it could take a year to re­move it all from the pa­per mill build­ing.

That is be­cause the buyer, which he de­clined to name or say where it was from, was un­able to deal with all of the pre­mix at once.

‘‘It’s the buy­ers’ prerog­a­tive, but it is progress, and we are deal­ing with an ex­pe­ri­enced op­er­a­tor. We’ve got a pur­chaser who has to or­gan­ise all of the lo­gis­tics to move it. Beg­gars can’t be choosers and we have to work with them to get the best out­come.

‘‘It’s not like this is a Trade Me sale where you can just say ‘‘pop around and pick it up Trev’’; it’s far more com­plex than that be­cause you’re work­ing with a haz­ardous ma­te­rial and a very, very small mar­ket of buy­ers.’’

Con­sent would need to be ob­tained to re­move it and a risk man­age­ment plan would need to be drawn up be­fore it was moved.

The coun­cil was fi­nal­is­ing the de­tails of how much fund­ing it would be con­tribut­ing to mov­ing the pre­mix, he said.

Liq­uida­tors for­mally dis­claimed the pre­mix in De­cem­ber af­ter spend­ing about 18 months try­ing to find a pur­chaser for it.

Last week, En­vi­ron­ment South­land voted to con­trib­ute $250,000 as part of a re­gional fund­ing pack­age of $650,000 to en­able the re­moval.

Chair­man Ni­col Hor­rell said while ES has no statu­tory obli­ga­tions in re­gard to the stor­age of the ma­te­ri­als, coun­cil­lors recog­nised they had an im­por­tant role in the so­lu­tion.

‘‘This is an is­sue the com­mu­nity feels strongly about, there is a lot of con­cern and we are pre­pared to play our part in the res­o­lu­tion.’’

The $250,000 re­serves. will be funded from

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