Mataura asks Govt to act

Otago Daily Times - - FRONT PAGE - KAREN PASCO in Mataura

MATAURA res­i­dents stood up last night and asked cen­tral Gov­ern­ment to rid their com­mu­nity of ou­vea pre­mix.

It was a re­quest made by about 400 people who turned out to 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 — mak­ing them more ag­i­tated, up­set and vo­cal.

When com­bined with wa­ter, ou­vea can gen­er­ate poi­sonous am­mo­nia gas.

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

It be­gan when the mi­cro­phone wouldn’t work at the be­gin­ning of the meet­ing. A shout came from the crowd, ‘‘the council’s turned the power off’’.

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

Im­me­di­ately Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks took the mi­cro­phone.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Civil De­fence, Mr Hicks and oth­ers spoke about ei­ther the history of ou­vea in the area, or what had hap­pened dur­ing the floods last week.

Stop 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 yes­ter­day’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.’’

They were con­tin­u­ing to look at le­gal op­tions and mak­ing Mataura safe.

There would be a meet­ing next week to try to fast­track the process and he gave a time frame of four to six months to have the dross re­moved.

One res­i­dent spoke of Rio Tinto’s track record of abus­ing small towns around the world.

‘‘If you think Rio Tinto are going to come to the party, you might as well as for­get it.

PHOTO: KAREN PASCO

Strong turnout . . . Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks talks to the 400­strong crowd at the Mataura Youth Trust Hall last night.

PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY

A sign warn­ing of haz­ardous ou­vea.

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