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Synlait dairy processing factory gets go-ahead

April 20, 2006


Synlait dairy processing factory gets go-ahead

Resource management commissioners have granted consents for Synlait Ltd’s new milk-processing plant in central Canterbury. In accordance with Environment Canterbury recommendations, Synlait agreed to a 20-year duration for the consents relating to discharges to land and air, down from 35 years maximum under the Resource Management Act. The factory will be sited on Synlait’s 600 hectare dairy farm at Dunsandel.

Commissioners Robert Batty and Dr Brent Cowie were appointed by Environment Canterbury, and Selwyn District Council, to decide upon resource consents related to the factory’s operation. There were 32 submissions on the notified consent applications, 19 in opposition.

The 96-page commissioners’ decision covers several consents and conditions. Water, to be used in the dairy plant and to spray irrigate crops and pasture, will be pumped from two bores 70 metres deep. All water takes and use will be metered and measured to avoid wastage.

Although the original application was to take more groundwater than already covered by existing consents for the Synlait farm, this was later changed and the volume to be used reduced from over 7,000 cubic metres of water per day in the dairy factory to 2,660 cubic metres per day. “This change is very significant in that it meant no more groundwater would be taken than is presently the case,” stated the commissioners. As a result, they did not need to take into account priority issues for consent applications or the effect of allocating more water in the Rakaia-Selwyn red groundwater zone (considered fully allocated by ECan).

Consent conditions also cover treated wastewater, stormwater and untreated cooling water/condensate, which will be sprayed over 283 hectares of land. Three monitoring wells will assess any contamination by nitrogen and E.coli bacteria downgradient from the disposal area, which would trigger a change in practices. The conditions note that there should be no objectionable odour beyond the disposal area’s boundary. Stormwater swales using an interceptor to protect groundwater from contamination around the tanker refuelling areas are also covered. Sludge to be spread over land is restricted to 40 cubic metres in any 24-hour period with annual sampling of soil to avoid contamination. The plant’s coal-fired boiler chimney stack, the milk processing plant and wastewater treatment discharges to air also have conditions to control environmental or pollution potential.

The commissioners said that the recycling of cooling water within the plant, and the use of wastewater for irrigation would promote the efficient use of resources. “We have also provided for the efficient use of water by imposing a limit on the amount of water that can be taken from groundwater specifically for use in the factory, and by providing for audits of the efficiency of water use in the factory at least once every five years… any effects on the quality of the environment will be no more than minor given conditions to avoid or mitigate potential adverse effects associated with the proposal.”

All parties to the hearing have been posted notice of the outcome this week, with a 15-working-day period to lodge any appeal on that decision.


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