Sunday, March 3, 2024

Environment Minister asked to ‘call in’ waste-to-energy plant proposal

Waikato Regional Council has asked Environment Minister, Penny Simmonds, to “call in” a waste-to-energy plant consent application to enable greenhouse gas emissions to be considered.

A proposal by Global Contracting Solutions Limited would see the plant built at 401 Racecourse Rd, north of Te Awamutu.

In a statement, Council said the company is proposing to incinerate 150,000 tonnes of rubbish annually – burning the rubbish to generate steam to turn into around 15 megawatts of electric power. To fuel the plant, rubbish would be trucked in from outside the district, it said.

If approved, the facility would be the first of its kind in New Zealand and would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Consent applications have been received by the Council for discharges to air and water, and for Waipā District Council to construct and operate the plant.

In total, more than 1,700 submissions have recently been received by the Councils, with the vast majority opposing the plant.

Waikato Regional Council Acting Regional Consents Manager, Hugh Keane, acknowledged there had been very strong community interest in the proposal, with 575 submitters indicating they wish to be heard.

“The submissions indicate a large amount of public concern relating to technology, processes or methods that submitters believe are new to Aotearoa New Zealand and may affect the environment,” he said.

Mr Keane said the regional council considers the proposal reaches the threshold to be considered of national significance in accordance with various factors listed in Section 142(3) of the Resource Management Act. 

“Our consents staff have assessed the application and identified there is potential for greenhouse gas emissions and effects on climate change.”

The factors of particular relevance are whether the proposal:

  • affects or is likely to affect or is relevant to New Zealand’s international obligations to the global environment;
  • results or is likely to result in or contribute to significant or irreversible changes to the environment, including the global environment.

“But the application was lodged prior to Resource Management Act amendments made in November 2022 which allow the consideration of greenhouse gas emissions and the effects on climate change of activities,” Mr Keane said.

“This means the regional council cannot consider the effects of greenhouse gas on climate change. But if the application is called in by Minister Penny Simmonds, we understand a Board of Inquiry or Environment Court can take this into account.”

Environment Minister, Penny Simmonds.

Council says its letter to the Environment Minister has been sent today. Global Contracting Solutions Limited has also been notified.

“Given a joint hearing was being planned, we have liaised directly with Waipā District Council on this issue.”

“We understand a decision on requesting a call in will be made by Waipa’s elected members at their February 2024 council meeting,” Mr Keane said.

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