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Ongoing Questions About Tiwai Waste & Liquidators’ Actions

Mataura/Southland Hazardous Waste $4 Million Bail Out

Ongoing Questions About Tiwai Waste & Liquidators’ Actions

Michael Laws of The Message represented the landlord of the former Mataura paper mills, Southland Storage Ltd, and latterly all four landlords/owners involved in the $4 million settlement today, relating to over 20,000 tonnes of hazardous waste disclaimed by the liquidators of Taha International and Taha Fertilizer.

While all the parties involved in today’s announced $4 million clean-up are understandably relieved that a solution has been found, serious policy questions remain as to how another similar situation in Southland (and New Zealand) can be averted.

This is the second time that taxpayers, ratepayers and private individuals have been required to resolve the problems associated with NZ Aluminium Smelter’s industrial waste from the Tiwai Point smelter.

This will rightly occasion much public and political debate and discussion over coming weeks and months.

But a wider policy and legal issue also requires serious governmental attention.

Under current companies’ legislation, liquidators can disclaim “onerous property” and their environmental responsibilities – and let others clear up, and pay for, the mess. In this Southland case, the private landlords and latterly Southland ratepayers and the general taxpayer.

However, the primary creditors of the companies – usually banks – get paid out first by liquidators. This is before the liquidators address the hazardous or toxic waste that may be left in the wake of the company collapse.
That is clearly wrong and other countries – for example, Queensland in Australia – have addressed the issue with legislation. It is time for New Zealand to do the same.

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