Questions put to RPS by Graeme Stilwell on behalf of NZPA re Russell landfill

21-12-2008

Questions put to RPS by Graeme Stilwell on behalf of New Zealand Press Association re Russell landfill

1. What specific submission did RPS make to the LTCCP, and do you consider the submission was successful?

The Far North District Council (FNDC) did not signal its proposals in their LTCCP to use the Russell landfill as a District-wide tip.  Therefore we did not respond to this issue in our submission, but made comments about the need for waste reduction, recycling and sorting of waste. This raises the important point that the FNDC is acting in a manner contrary to its own LTCCP, and its Annual Plan for that matter.

2. How do you rate the LTCCP submissions process?

The Russell Protection Society (RPS) is of the view that FNDC largely ignores submissions to their LTCCP. Further, they also apparently ignore their LTCCP when it suits them. Russell residents do not have access to other landfills in the District.There is only one other landfill operating in the District and that is in Kaitaia. The Russell landfill is essentially a small rural tip that is quite unsuitable to serve as a District-wide disposal site. It is at the gateway to the historic township, it drains leachate into the adjoining wetland and then into a bay that contains important customary and commercial shellfish beds, it has very limited capacity, it is located on an isolated peninsula served by a ferry, it is vitally important to Russell's self-sufficiency and it is adjoining a prime international tourist attraction. It is a nonsense to claim that money will be saved by trucking waste over the ferry from other parts of the District because our tip will quickly fill and substantial costs will then be incurred in trucking isolated Russell's waste off the peninsula. More particularly, the Russell community sorts its own rubbish and then takes it to the landfill (there is no curbside collection) where it is further sorted and then hazardous and recyclable materials are collected and sent elsewhere. This is in contrast to the rest of the District where many areas do not sort, have curbside collection and contain large commercial/industrial areas.

3. Why is RPS so opposed to the use of the Russell landfill by the district to save money when Russell refuse could end up in other parts of the district at no extra cost to you?

We need to clear up a point. This is not a RPS initiative but is a spontaneous and virtually unanimous response from the whole Russell community to a proposal that simply makes no economic, environmental or social sense. The FNDC has acknowledged that they have not prepared a proper business case for this proposal - it seems to have been initiated by a Councillor and a contractor without reference either to the Russell community or other FNDC councillors and community board members.

4. Would you support NRC prosecution of FNDC if dumping continues at Russell?
The FNDC says obstructing trucks in the lawful execution of their duties is a matter for the police and that it would be a matter for the police if FNDC wished to prosecute obstructers.
5. Do you condone the protest actions, given that protesters might be acting outside the law?

The legal advice given to us and to the Northland Regional Council (NRC)clearly indicates that FNDC does not have resource consent for their proposal. Further, our legal advice is that FNDC is required to make a formal application under s 127 of the Resource Management Act and that this must be notified because of the intense public interest in the matter. Obviously FNDC does not want to go through such a public process, thereby calling into question their commitment to further consultation. It is ironic in your editorialising that you question the legality of Russell community actions when this was intended to stop the illegal actions of FNDC. Incidentally, the "protesters" were people who had never demonstrated before, but have been outraged by the FNDC's high-handed actions.

6. The FNDC says The GM of Water, Wastewater and Refuse met several Russell interest groups (the Russell Protection Society and the Russell Residents' and Ratepayers' groups) 10 days before the change (to dump at Russell) was to be implemented. A media release was also distributed the week preceding. Why did RPS not protest then instead of waiting for trucks to arrive? If it did protest, please outline what protest actions were taken, to whom, and what was the result?

The FNDC consulted with a couple of representatives of the community only after requested to do so by the Russell Ratepayers Group, who discovered the proposal when reading some brief Council minutes. A clear message was given to the FNDC at this casual meeting that what they were proposing was unacceptable. The RPS then wrote a letter to FNDC outlining why the proposal is unacceptable and pointing out that it is also illegal. We asked the FNDC to desist from dumping until the community could consult further. We also issued a press release to that effect. The FNDC response was to send two huge truck loads of waste on Monday morning 1 December at 7am.   A demonstration turned the trucks around and then FNDC finally agreed to meet with the community to properly discuss the matter.

7. Chief executive designate of FNDC says, in a general statement, there are learnings associated with the Russell dump issue and one of them is that the council needs to communicate better with its communities. He says he will be looking at how FNDC can build bridges with its communities and improve its performance in these areas. He says regarding the Russell landfill, the council is still assessing a number of options for future refuse disposal. In a few paragraphs I invite you to interpret these comments and give your views. Plainly it seems FNDC wants to talk about things. Agree?

It does appear that FNDC has a problem in properly consulting with the Russell community on many infrastructure issues, including the dumping of waste, the provision of a water supply and bridge and , previously, the provision of a sewerage scheme. The FNDC seems to have developed a concept without consultation which envisages the intensive development of the Russell Peninsula as part of the "Bay of Islands growth node", despite the fact that all organisations within Russell have stated in their LTCCP and Annual Plan submissions that they don't want this - and the expensive infrastructure that the Council seems intent on foisting on us. The essential tourist and marine farming industries of Russell are highly dependent on protecting the natural and historic environment, and also safeguarding the current ambiance or "character" for which the Township is so renown. If you would like any further information on this Russell landfill issue, please refer to our website.