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Historical landfill investigations painstaking work

The first stage of the painstaking work to locate historical landfills in Hastings has been completed, with six small sites used to dispose of household refuse in the 1960s confirmed in Havelock North.

The sites have been assessed by independent engineering and environmental specialist company Pattle Delamore Partners (PDP), which has advised that the old sites are likely to pose little risk. Follow-up physical investigations at one of the sites confirmed those findings.

Hastings District Council, like other councils across New Zealand, is combing through the records of early councils to find any such sites. The project was initiated following the uncovering of an historical landfill on the West Coast which saw old rubbish escape into the Fox River.

“This is about finding out all that we can so we can then assess any risk and see what, if anything, needs to be done about them,” said Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst.

The report on the Havelock North sites notes the risk from the six landfills as low. Given their age, the short period of time they were used, the type of waste disposed of, and the small size, on present information they do not meet the threshold that requires active monitoring. Roys Hill is an example of an old, much larger landfill used for a far greater period of time that is monitored and tested regularly.

PDP technical director Graeme Proffitt said the same reasons - age, type of refuse, size, short length of time – meant the contents would likely be stable so the risk of leaching into waterways was also likely to be low.

The Havelock North sites were found by searching old Havelock North Borough Council meeting minutes and correspondence, and comparing old photographs with modern ones.

“Unfortunately, unlike today, councils in the early days did not keep specific records on these things, so we need to do quite a bit of searching to find sites,” said Council chief executive Nigel Bickle.

In Havelock North four of the six sites are under reserve land; in Anderson Park, Awarua Cres, Tauroa Rd Reserve, and Te Mata Rd, near Durham Dr.
Council had further testing completed on Anderson Park in order to corroborate the “low risk” findings in the initial assessment. Physical testing is now being carried out on the remainder of the Council-owned sites.

Two sites are on private land (Havelock North Primary School and a residential address). Council has presented the investigation findings to the owners and provided advice on how they would go about commissioning further testing should they wish to do so.

The section of the primary school that the then Board of Education and the school agreed would be used for waste disposal is now almost all covered with hard surfaces.

Council is continuing to review further historical records to identify whether there are any other sites in the district that might require investigation.
“We will keep the community updated as they come to light however, given the time it takes to do the research and then to confirm whether they or exist or not, it is not a fast process,” said Mr Bickle.

The process is not straightforward. The original work in Havelock North indicated eight sites, however further investigation ruled out two of them.
The Pattle Delamore Partners initial investigation assessed the risks at each site. While such sites have the potential for risks, hence the need to locate them, the Havelock North sites are on present information assessed as low risk.
Council will record the sites and note that, should excavation be required, the project’s health and safety plan will need to reflect that there is a landfill below ground and set out the appropriate actions to mitigate any risk. It would also note that the sites should be assessed for damage following severe weather events.

See: Hastings District Council’s website: hastingsdc.govt.nz/services/rubbish-and-recycling/historical-landfills

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