A plan to build a waste-to-energy plant in Waikato that burns rubbish to create electricity is now open for public consultation.
The proposed plant would be built at 401 Racecourse Rd, Te Awamutu, between the racecourse and Fonterra effluent ponds.
It would burn 150,000 tonnes of waste annually, sourced from councils across the wider Waikato region and generate 15MW of electricity, enough to provide for about 14,000 average households.
Hamilton-based company Global Contracting Solutions is behind the proposal and initially lodged an application for a non-notified resource consent.
Waipā District Council growth and regulatory services group manager Wayne Allan said the project needed to be notified because it did not comply with the rules relating to earthworks, noise, building setbacks, the height of the chimney stack, landscaping and screening and vehicle entrance separation.
It also has resource consents pending with the Waikato Regional Council relating to the discharge of contaminants into the air, the discharge of stormwater and the disposal of clean fill.
The material accepted into the facility would include end-of-life tyres, industrial waste, regionally sourced municipal solid waste and plastic. The plant would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Global Contracting Solutions intends to build the plant at 401 Racecourse Rd.
Opposition to the plant has included concerns about toxins and greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere, and the location which was close to residential housing, several schools and food businesses.
Zero Waste Network general manager Dorte Wray believed the plant could have a “dramatic climate impact”.
“Incinerators are just another form of disposal like landfill.”
Global Contracting Solutions project manager Adam Fletcher told the Waikato Herald the plant had been specifically designed to be “appropriate and compliant and safe”.
“[The emissions] are so small as to be hardly measurable ... The monitoring of emissions over the past decade has got better and better as technology improved. Just about the only reason that emissions are not zero is simply because the monitoring is so good.
“You can’t get away with being a poor corporate citizen these days. We specifically designed [the plant] to be appropriate and compliant and safe,” Fletcher said.
Wray said the proposal did not provide “the future we want”.
“You need to feed the beast. You need waste to keep the incinerator going.
“We don’t think it’s the right direction ... These kinds of projects require significant investment [which] could be better used elsewhere. Waipā District Council and the Waikato Regional Council both have good waste minimisation plans and I would be supporting those.”
Wray said the network’s focus was now on “getting submissions in”.
“We worked with the Feilding community and mana whenua to stop the waste-to-energy proposal in Feilding. We will do the same in Te Awamutu.”
Waipā Māori Ward councillor Dale-Maree Morgan was involved with the action group Don’t Burn Waipā, prior to becoming a councillor. She said she now had to listen to her constituents.
“But the feedback that I got from them is that they don’t want this in their backyard.”
A breakdown and direction of waste related to the plant.
Morgan said she and the majority of her constituents shared the concerns raised by the Zero Waste Network.
In its application, Global Contracting Solutions said air discharges were “benign”. Fletcher said the plant’s emissions would be within the permitted range allowed under the Resource Management Act.
When asked about concerns related to the location, Fletcher said the company had visited waste-to-energy facilities overseas, including in Germany and Singapore.
“There are a number of these plants in proximity to food production facilities and the centre of city townships and shopping malls around the world. Those facilities have been judged as acceptable [by the countries they are built in].”
The former coal-fired Meremere power station when it was decomissioned. Global Olivine wanted to turn it into a waste-to-energy plant in 2000. Photo / Photopress, Ross Land
In response to concerns raised about the floodplain, Fletcher said it was not going to be built on the low-lying land areas.
“We’re above the 100-year flood level limit, as required by the regional council rules.”
Global Contracting Solutions’ project chair Roger Wilson said the company did not want to do “anything that is harmful to people”.
“We want to fit in with the environment.”
He also said the company did not want to incinerate waste that should be recycled.
“We’re not here to discourage recycling. We’re here to handle the waste products that are currently destined for landfill ... Recycling should [continue to] happen, we support product design that reduces waste, [but] in the meantime [other] waste has to have a destination.”
“Meremere was before its time and the consenting and technology process was inappropriate at the time. The technology was much older.”
Wilson said one of their consultants had not supported Meremere, “but has come on board with our project”.
Global Contracting Solutions was now in the process of engaging with the community, including a meeting with the Te Awamutu Community Board next week, and had also approached local schools, Fonterra, Te Wānanga, and the administrators of the Te Awamutu Racecourse to talk to them.
“We are hopeful of getting this proposal over the line, we think it’s the right thing to do,” Wilson said.
When asked if the company planned to build the waste-to-energy plant elsewhere, if the Te Awamutu location wasn’t approved, Fletcher said they would “cross that bridge when we come to it”.
The Waikato Herald also approached Fonterra for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.
If successful with the application, Global Contracting Solutions hoped to start earthworks in September next year. The plant could then be fully operational by 2027.
The company was also seeking a resource consent from the Waikato Regional Council relating to the discharge of contaminants into the air, the discharge of stormwater and the disposal of clean fill from the proposed plant.
As both councils received resource consent applications, they would be assessed via a joint hearing.
Waipā District Council and Waikato Regional Council would appoint a hearing panel of independent commissioners to make a decision on whether or not the plant can go ahead. This means local councillors won’t be directly involved in the decision-making.
The independent commissioners, likely to be appointed in October, would assess the applications and consider public submissions, but probably not until the first half of 2024.
More information was available via the Waipā District Council website. Submissions could be made online and close on October 13.
Action group Don’t Burn Waipā said it would run a public information meeting next Tuesday, September 26 at 6.30pm at the Te Awamutu Library.
There would also be a public workshop via Zoom on Thursday, October 3 at 7pm to go through the submission process.
Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you