The meeting between FNDC and Russell Executive (RX) took place on December 5th and lasted around 2 hours. TV cameras were in attendance for the whole meeting.
1. After a welcome address by Colwyn Shortland and introductions, the FNDC outlined the current situation and indicated its intention to continue with an application to the NRC to obtain approval for use of the Russell site for all southern district waste. They estimate that this could take 3 to 9 months to obtain approval, depending on whether the application was notified or not. We asked that in light of the tremendous public interest the Council would agree to have the application notified. FNDC’s position remained that it was an NRC decision and they would not seek to influence it.
2. RX made it extremely clear that that the Russell Community is determined to stop the use of our tip by other communities. We explained our reasons; the impacts on our environment, our economy, our road and ferry systems. The sheer volume increase proposed, half a tonne per resident per month would swamp our facilities and by our calculations would generate 14 to 17 times more rubbish than we produce ourselves. We will use every opportunity open to us to oppose the proposal. We have retained lawyers to represent us. We will take the matters to all levels of appeal that are available. This would delay approval by many months. We will continue to use civil disobedience, if that is what it takes. The community has never been more united.
3.The FNDC indicated it would not attempt further deliveries to the Russell Tip until the issue is resolved or they have final approvals from the NRC.
4. FNDC told us that the costs of refuse operations in Russell are $192K a year to run and that the revenue was $68K. The loss, $124K, was covered by rates and that Russell was being subsidised by the rest of the District. When pressed for comparable numbers for the District it was begrudgingly admitted that the cost was around $4Mln. The revenue was not available but was estimated to be only 20% of the costs (i.e. $800K.) So it was clear that we were well ahead of the rest of the District in financial performance.
5. We were told the cost savings could be $300k per year. All the savings would come only by using Russell for the whole Southern District. Ahipara, did not represent a savings opportunity. The cause of the problem was that Red Vale had increased its gate charge by 250%. When pressed to tell us what percentage increase that was on the total FNDC costs, no one was able to tell us.
6. It was admitted after some pressure, that no business case existed and that the $300K savings was “a short term estimate”. Redvale could continue to be used but at extra cost.
7. The reason Russell was critical to use was that there were no other landfills currently approved for use in the southern district. Once Whangae was approved, Russell would no longer be needed. There was also discussion on other alternatives, including a possible privately owned dump being established within the district, a Whangarei District Council facility and one site close to Hamilton. Clearly the FNDC planning had failed miserably.
8. The Council’s attempts to advise the community of its plans were ridiculed by attendees. At one point the Council suggested that at its meeting with 3 community representatives, the Russell Ratepayers had not objected to the plan. This was vigorously rejected by Karen Briggs, who cited an email from the RRCA to the Council voicing its strong opposition. Peter Johnson admitted that Martin was against it at that meeting.
9. Clr Bowman suggested that we could have the Tip filled quickly; it could then be capped off and grassed. Then we would have a transfer station and our garbage would be shipped off shore to another facility. He viewed that as beneficial to the community. RX vigorously rejected this view.
10. A number of issues related to the handling of leachate from the waste area and the percolation through the rock strata were discussed.
11. It was admitted by the FNDC that the combined Sewage and Waste sites would not meet today’s environmental standards. We also emphasised the sensitive nature of our proximity to the various local bays and oyster farms.
12. The insulting nature of various FNDC press releases and comments by the Mayor were not adding to smooth community relations. RX does not need to get into a slanging match. We are in the right and we will fight for that right.
Nothing much is likely to happen until after the New Year’s break. The FNDC wish to meet with us again in mid January and communications will be maintained with Martin Leiding interfacing with Peter Johnson, FNDC General Manager.
We thank John Agace for this report.