Community anger over rubbish incinerator ramps up call for moratorium

The Zero Waste Network is ramping up calls for the next government to institute an immediate moratorium on incineration of mixed solid waste following a packed out community meeting in Te Awamutu where an incinerator is being proposed.

“There is a proposal in Te Awamutu to burn 166,000 tonnes of waste including tyres, mixed plastics and mixed household waste. The proposed location is in the middle of a residential neighbourhood with three schools in the immediate area. Almost all of the rubbish burned would be brought from outside of the community,” said Sue Coutts for the Zero Waste Network. 

“We had 200 people at a meeting last week demanding this be stopped, and the community is meeting again this Wednesday. Many people are only just finding out about the proposal and are rightly angry.” 

“Waste incinerators take us in the wrong direction. They require constant supplies of rubbish to fuel them, undermining our efforts at waste minimisation. At the same time, they create huge carbon emissions and leave behind toxic byproducts that still require landfilling. They create a whole new set of waste and climate problems with far reaching consequences.”

“The government has made clear in the Waste Strategy that incineration of mixed solid waste is not something we want, but small district and regional councils are having to deal with these proposals in an ad hoc way because there is no coherent national framework. This is why a moratorium right now is necessary.”

Another very large incinerator proposal in Waimate, Canterbury, has been already called in by the Minister for the Environment after the district council, regional council and iwi all asked central government to take over, noting the complexity and national significance of these types of projects. 

Australia’s New South Wales and Victorian governments have developed extensive regulatory guidance around waste-to-energy incinerators including creating specific guidance about appropriate fuels and human health assessments. 

“Local decision makers just do not have enough knowledge or information about the impacts of these proposals. These incinerators have significant risks and costs which affect more than just the immediate community or even the region, but these wider considerations cannot be taken into account in the current decision making process.”

“It is time for a central government moratorium on mixed rubbish incinerators so that communities, councils and the environment do not bear the costs of badly thought out projects.”