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Lobby Group Wants Kaipara Incinerator Plant Facts, Not Sales Pitch

National lobbyists against Kaipara’s proposed $730m refuse incinerator are calling for facts rather than a sales pitch on the project.

New Zealand’s Zero Waste Network (ZWN) spokesperson Sue Coutts said decision makers needed to know about the incinerator's risks when considering whether the industrial facility should go ahead.

“We are not seeing any evidence of that happening so far (about the proposed Kaipara plant).”

Kaipara Mayor Craig Jepson is pushing for the waste to energy (WtE) plant in his council area.

Coutts said it was a common strategy for those promoting incinerators to get local politicians on board and use them to sell the idea to the public and local businesses.

This was usually pitched as local economic development and making waste problems magically 'go away’, she said.

The facility’s downsides also needed to be brought into the conversation so that local residents, ratepayers and businesses had the whole picture so they could make a sound decision about the plant, she said.

Jepson said in response: “What downsides? There are no downsides.”

Coutts challenged what Jepson has described as an investigation into the Kaipara plant.

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She said it was more a promotion and there was no cost-benefit analysis.

Jepson would not conclusively elaborate on the work involved. Nor would he be drawn on whether a report from the investigation would be produced, when it was completed early next year.

ZWN, which is against waste incinerators in New Zealand, lodged an Official Information Act (OIA) request with Kaipara District Council (KDC) about the potential local WtE plant.

Coutts said the response indicated other councils potentially involved with deciding about the Kaipara plant and providing rubbish to it were to be ‘socialised’ to the idea of waste-to-energy incineration.

Coutts said they were being given a sales pitch without transparent discussion about risks to local communities.

“We are also concerned that the push for incineration is being advanced in isolation, without consideration of a range of options available to the people of Kaipara and Northland,” Coutts said.

The options included expanding work by local Northland organisations Sustainable Kaipara, EcoSolutions and Resilient Russell.

Presentations about the plant have been made to the Mayors of Auckland Council, Far North, Kaipara and Whangārei district councils – and some councillors, including Auckland Council’s Rodney representatives.

The proposed WtE plant has also been discussed by the Northland Mayoral Forum.

Coutts said the response showed Jepson alone was driving Kaipara’s waste to energy plant, rather than the council or communities.

The response said the plant was not a council initiative “rather it is a Mayoral initiative and there is no funding allocated or proposed”.

“It is still very much in the discussion and collaboration stages with the other Auckland and Northland Mayors,” the response said.

Coutts said ZWN was concerned the fast track consenting legislation going through Parliament could be used to bypass community involvement and adequate scrutiny of the impacts of burning waste.

Jepson said his door was always open to anybody who wanted to talk about the WtE plant and there needed to be a national conversation about the plants as part of dealing with the country’s waste.

There would be a chance to look at the plant’s consent application when one was lodged, but this had not yet happened, he said.

Jepson said KDC had been talking about waste management ‘flat tack’ as part of developing its three-year Long Term Plan.

He said recycling, composting and dumping all had emissions and effects and these should be looked at too.

WtE plants were the healthiest way to dispose of New Zealand’s growing waste pile and the majority of his councillors were in favour of the incinerator plant, Jepson said.

OPTIONAL FOOTNOTE:

Footnote: Jepson has been a WtE plant advocate for 25 years, since his three-year involvement as an WtE investment company Olivine NZ shareholder and spokesman in the failed then $223 million bid to convert the former Meremere power station to a WtE plant which was canned in 2000.

In 2020, he spent a month at a WtE plant in Nice, France to learn more about its operation.

He also investigated WtE plant technology on a recent overseas trip.

Jepson became Kaipara Mayor in 2022 and a WtE plant for Kaipara was one of his goals, but he did not campaign on this.

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