16 Oct 2009

Paper mill gets 25-year waste consent

8:27 pm on 16 October 2009

New Zealand's largest paper mill has had its permit to discharge effluent into the Tarawera River extended for another 25 years.

Under the new consent, however, Tasman Paper Mill will have to reduce the 275 million litres of waste it dumps per day in the Bay of Plenty river.

A panel has agreed the consent should be renewed because of exceptional circumstances and the value of the investment made in the plant, owned by Carter Holt Harvey and Norske Skog.

The panel says there is no scientific evidence the mill has a significant effect on the river's ecology, though it does want the discolouration of the river to be reduced.

The resource consent permits the companies to take clean water from the Tarawera River and pump it back in laden with chemicals. They will also create a new landfill.

Robin Ford, a regional councillor and one of four commissioners who approved the consent, says it was a reasoned decision.

Mr Ford says the regional council will monitor the situation, with the owners required to produce regular reports of the river's condition and the mill's activities. He says if there are any disasters, the mill's owners could face prosecution.

Norske Skog says it will work with the community to improve water quality and exceed its compliance conditions.

Soil scientist turned orchardist Harry Lagocki spoke out against the consent and says it is preposterous to suggest that effluent dumping has no ecological effect on the river.

The former Otago University lecturer says the commissioners seemed to think water discolouration was a bigger issue than human health.

Mr Lagocki says permission for a new landfill site is basically a licence for the mill operators to expand and spread boron and PCPs into the water system.

He says the Tarawera River's dioxin levels should concern all food producers and consumers.

The Green Party says the decision is a disgrace and the exceptional circumstances that allowed the consents are not defined.