The saga of the North Island tyre mountain

From Nine To Noon, 9:32 am on 26 May 2015

Why are 150,000 used tyres being shunted around various sites in the North Island with no apparent means of recycling on the horizon? Nine to Noon has been investigating.

It all started with a mountain of 150,000 tyres that were dumped at a site in Frankton, Hamilton, when the company that was meant to recycle them went bust.

The tyres are being stored on farmland in Taupo and here at a quarry in Waihi Beach.

The tyres are being stored on farmland in Taupo and here at a quarry in Waihi Beach. Photo: SUPPLIED

The land the tyres were on had been leased by the council from KiwiRail, which wanted it back. So the council needed to get rid of the tyres fast.

It put out tenders, and awarded the contract to Kawerau Tyre Storage Limited, which later became EcoVersion. That company was to take ownership of the tyres, remove them and recycle them. The problem was that EcoVersion did not actually have a recycling plant yet, but said it planned to build one.  

EcoVersion told the council it would store the tyres at its site in Kawerau. However when the Kawerau District Council found out the company planned to truck all 150,000 tyres there, it put a stop to it. The Mayor, Malcolm Campbell, had this to say:

"We have a contract with EcoVersion, and that is at its limit right now, and didn't want any more to come in until they could start doing the actual recycling."

So EcoVersion arranged to store the tyres on farmland in Taupo, and in a quarry at Waihi Beach in Bay of Plenty.

Reece Irving, the Senior Project Implementation Officer for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, said there were about 50,000 tyres in the quarry, and the regional council was becoming increasingly concerned about the environmental risk. 

He said the council had already done fire risk assessments and split the mountain of tyres into smaller piles with fire breaks in between. But it remained concerned that if the tyres were there for much longer they would begin to degrade and leach. It has told the company they must be removed by the August 1.

The Taupo Mayor, David Trewavas, was also concerned about the fire risk from the tyres stored in his region. He said about 10,000 tyres were being stored on land in Puketapu Road near Lake Taupo. He said the fire service had told him they would struggle to put a tyre fire out.  

Mr Trewavas staked out the property yesterday afternoon and said another load of tyres was delivered to the privately owned farm in an unmarked truck.

EcoVersion's Director, Angela Merrie said the company's state of the art tyre processing plant would be up and running by the end of the year. She said the company needed a resource of tyres before the project was operational, which is why it needed to store tyres while the plant was built, which she anticipated would be by the end of November. Plans were underway to find a new location to store the bulk of the tyres once they were no longer allowed to be at the Waihi quarry.

Reece Irving, David Trewavas and Angela Merrie spoke to Nine to Noon.