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Controversial Greymouth Landfill Public Hearing Recommended

Fresh resource consent applications by a controversial private landfill near Greymouth could now go to a public hearing.

West Coast Regional Council staff on June 4 advised council's Resource Management Committee fresh applications for Taylorville Resource Park should be referred to an independent panel.

They include an application to vary an existing consent and two new discharge consents relating to odour and water leachate, which is the runoff that filters through landfill waste.

Council planning consultant Selva Selvarajah said they had reviewed the fresh applications and engaged an expert consultant for an assessment.

The new report was in train but it was awaiting fresh information from the applicant, "who have been asked to provide answers," he said.

"We will be recommending to publicly notify the resource consent applications," Mr Selvarajah said.

In line with this, the application should be heard by an independent commissioner panel, he said.

Chief executive Darryl Lew said an independent commissioner could be appointed on behalf of Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae.

However, given various comments at the council table previously about the Taylorville site, the two current regional councillors accredited as hearing commissioners were "probably conflicted" around appointment to an independent panel, he said.

Whether the Grey District Council, as an interested party, would follow a similar panel process was not yet known, Mr Lew said.

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The landfill site was first granted consents on a non-notified basis by council for what is now Taylorville Resource Park, in 2021 and 2022.

But the site has been dogged with controversy, including the district council flagging its unhappiness at not being considered an affected party in the first place -- despite its Greymouth town water supply being adjacent to the proposed landfill.

There have also been multiple neighbour complaints to the regional council including odour, dust, and water leachate from the site resulting in several previous abatements.

The council itself commissioned an independent audit of its role in giving consent -- with damning findings in mid-2023.

The site is currently under an abatement notice from the Environmental Protection Authority after the regional council asked it to take over its ongoing investigation of the site early this year.

A WorkSafe NZ investigation has yet to formally conclude after two workers were overcome by gas within the site on August 3, 2023.

Cr Allan Birchfield, who has a relationship to the consultant used for the site's original applications, questioned the evidence of "ongoing odour discharges".

Mr Lew said there had been a number of "verified breaches".

"That's been well documented and recorded. They have also released discharge from water at the site onto adjacent property and that water has had a degree of contamination," he said.

Cr Birchfield asked if the landfill was so bad, why was the Environmental Protection Authority allowing the site to still operate under its current abatement?

Mr Lew said Cr Birchfield would need to ask the authority.

Mr Selvarajah said the main issue at hand was the fresh consent process rather than the compliance issues.

Cr Peter Ewen said when it came to complaints under the Resource Management Act, "it's never a numbers game: it's about the complaint".

From the outset the implications of allowing the site consent in a high rainfall area without measures to handle run off from the site had been problematic, he said.

"That's why we have ended up where we have ended up -- just another end game."

Mr Lew said at this point there was little more council could do.

"There is nothing we can do to fully shutdown the site at all, as long as they are abiding by their existing consents."

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