Ratepayers may have to help pay for thousands of tonnes of toxic waste to be shipped overseas, now that the company in charge of it has gone into liquidation, Gore mayor Tracy Hicks says.
At least 22,000 tonnes of partly processed waste from the Tiwai aluminium smelter is being stored at various sites around Southland, including a disused paper mill in Gore.
The liquidators of Taha International said yesterday that making the waste safe would cost several million dollars.
The waste was partially processed into a product called Ouvea Premix, but was never finished into fertiliser as Taha had promised.
Mayor Tracy Hicks said funding would have to come from several sources, including Tiwai, the government and local councils.
"This is not a Christmas present that I welcome, and it's something that our ratepayers certainly won't welcome.
"And I will be doing what I can to make sure that risk, both financially and environmentally, is minimised."
Mr Hicks said the consent to keep the waste in the mill is to expire in a couple of months.
"There's gong to be some debate about who owns the product, and what is going to happen with it.
"It can't stay where it is forever."