Latest update – 25 March 2024 (please scroll down for recent updates in chronological order)

Company behind controversial Waimate energy plant yet to complete consent application

Radio NZ is reporting that, “The company behind a Canterbury waste-to-energy plant proposal is still yet to complete a consent application it first filed 18 months ago.” The consents were first filed to Canterbury Regional Council and Waimate District Council in September 2022. But they were returned twice for being incomplete. Almost a year later, in August 2023, the application was called in by the then environment minister, which meant the consent decision will now be made by the Environment Court, not the local councils. It was called in for being “a proposal of national significance”. At the time, the minister ruled the application could proceed without a missing water take application and cultural impact assessment. More than six months on, both were still incomplete and nothing had been lodged with the Environment Court.

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Background to the project

Spanish recycling services company Urbaser, Chinese environmental management firm Tianying Incorporated and New Zealand’s Renew Energy have established the joint venture called South Island Resource Recovery (SIRRL) to look for possible sites near Waimate in South Canterbury. (Source: RNZ)

The directors of SIRRL are the same people who were involved in a similar incinerator proposal in Hokitika/Westland, Renew Energy. This includes Kevin Stratful, who was an economic development consultant for Development West Coast (DWC) and the director of Renew Energy, an incinerator company, before he resigned in disgrace from the Council for using his work emails to promote the incinerator proposal and for urging West Coast councils to “avoid” responding to requests for official information. Another director of SIRRL is Paul Taylor of Ashburton who remains a director of Renew Energy. One of Renew Energy’s other original directors was referred to the Serious Fraud Office for investigation. The Ministry for the Environment advised the government that the original incinerator proposal was an economic and environmental loser. We can assume that this project is similar in nature and scope to that proposed for the West Coast

  • This company seems to use: moving grate incineration tech which is “the cheapest” one compared to others
  • The company mainly operates its business in East China and South China, developing WTE projects, both Building-Owning-Operation (BOO) and Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) modes.
  • Their office is based in Nantong and Shanghai, China
  • Here are some of their project examples and portfolios
  • The company sells its product to other countries such as Vietnam
  • As for the connections between the two companies: China Tianying Inc had some stock in Urbaser 3-4 years ago.
    Tianying, which incinerates waste to generate energy, acquired all of the Madrid-based firm’s equity for CNY8.9 billion (USD1.4 billion) in 2018 in the Chinese waste management sector’s largest overseas acquisition to date.
  • Here, it says that the company operates in 31 countries with 400+ WTE plants across the globe.

The Otago Daily Times writes “The planned incinerator would burn 350,000 tonnes of rubbish a year, nearly all of which would have to be transported to the town. In 2019, Waimate sent just 1280 tonnes of rubbish to landfill, at least 460 tonnes of which could have been diverted through better recycling and composting systems. To run the incinerator, Waimate would have to bring in 348,719 tonnes of rubbish a year, or 955 tonnes per day. That’s about 70 rubbish trucks a day from all over the district (an estimate similar to the one on the South Island Resource Recovery Ltd website).”

Stuff is reporting that the, “Company proposing waste-to-energy plant at Waimate are pushing hard for local support by asking the district council for lists of those most influential in the community and the mayor’s endorsement to use in advertising.”

In a recent Stuff article, “Greenpeace join call for more information on waste to energy proposal” saying that the company behind a plan to build a $350 million waste to energy plant in South Canterbury to be more upfront with information to the public.”

Kea Conservation Trust says, “A decision by a company [SIRRL] to use kea branding for its proposed $350 million waste to energy plant at Waimate could be seen as cultural appropriation,” and “The use of the name and imagery of kea in the waste to energy project, Project Kea, is a decision made by that company, and in no way reflects any involvement or association with the Kea Conservation Trust (KCT).”

In February 2022, Stuff reported that the company proposing $350m waste plant in Waimate is still preparing resource consent. South Island Resource Recovery Ltd (SIRRL) had previously planned to lodge resource consent applications with the Waimate District Council and Environment Canterbury by the end of 2021. SIRRL has asked Environment Canterbury to publicly notify this resource consent application so local people can have their say on the proposal for a waste-to-energy plant.

In April 2022, a Newsroom article on the proposal catalogues its strange history, and notes, “it’s Waimate’s turn in the South Island game of waste-to-energy whack-a-mole.”

In May 2022, the Otago Daily Times reported “Answers sought about proposed plant” after Why Waste Waimate’s meeting with the company did not provide any assurances on safety or environmental impacts.

Another bizarre twist in this tale centres around Mike Corcoran of ERP Group in Christchurch who was “storing thousands of bales illegally as he gambled on a waste-to-energy plant getting the go ahead.” Corcoran hoped to sell the bales of rubbish – which he calls “refuse-derived fuel” – to a yet to be built waste-to-energy plant planned for Waimate. Christchurch City Council said its compliance team was investigating whether a resource consent was needed from the council for storing the bales in the buildings. In May 2022, Stuff reported that Corcoran, who claimed no-one need worry about him going bust has done just that – and left behind over 10,000 tonnes of illegally stored rubbish for someone else to clean up.

Update 22 September 2022: Today, Stuff is reporting that, “The company behind a controversial proposal to build a $350 million waste-to-energy plant near Waimate says it has lodged an application for resource consent. South Island Resource Recovery Limited (SIRRL), the joint venture company proposing to build the plant, known as Project Kea, has lodged its consent applications with Environment Canterbury (ECan) and Waimate District Council (WDC). In its application, SIRRL formally asked the Councils to publicly notify the consent applications.” We knew that this was coming – and the community of Waimate is already organised to resist. Now they are going to need all of our help and support to defeat this toxic polluting monstrosity.  One particularly helpful thing you can do right now is to make sure any of your friends, family or colleagues who live down South know about this dangerous proposal.

The community group, Why Waste Waimate, has produced this excellent Factsheet describing the proposal.

Update 17 October 2022

Why Waste Waimate and the Zero Waste Network have joined together to write to the Minister to call in the application under the RMA. You can read that letter here. The community remains staunchly opposed to the incinerator, and are taking time to evaluate the whole proposal now that the documents have been lodged. We still have to wait on the local and regional councils to announce the public notification (the company has asked for this).

Update 29 November 2022

Resource consent applications were returned to the company because they were so bad! Stuff reports:

Concerns about a lack of information in resource consent applications for a controversial proposal to build a waste-to-energy plant in the Waimate District have led the regional and district councils to return them.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) confirmed it had returned South Island Resource Recovery Limited’s (SIRRL) resource consent application due to “insufficient information being supplied regarding the proposed activities of the plant and their effect on the environment”.

“ECan identified incomplete information in the consent applications on the impacts to cultural values, groundwater, surface water, air quality, storm water discharge, and odour.

ECan confirmed the Waimate District Council had also returned applications lodged by SIRRL.

Having had the applications returned, the company is still saying it will carry on and try to lodge a new resource consent application by the end of 2022. Here’s the Stuff report: The company behind a proposal to build a $350 million waste-to-energy plant in South Canterbury is planning to lodge resource consent applications before the end of 2022.

Update 30 November 2022 

The company re-lodged its resource consent application yesterday in an attempt to get it in before new legislation requiring climate impacts to be taken into account comes into effect TODAY.

Given how fundamentally inadequate the first application was, it is hard to imagine that it has met the requirements for this application and we hope ECAN and Waimate DC reject it again.

There are two media articles you can read: Company relodges “safe” waste-to-energy plant (ODT), and Second consent application lodged for Waimate waste-to-energy plant (RNZ)

Update 8 December 2022

Minister David Parker responded to our letter on 6 December saying he is waiting for more information before he makes any decision about calling in the application. He says he will not call in the Te Awamutu application because it has been publicly notified.

Update 23 February 2023

In late December 2023, SIRRL re-submitted their application for resource consent, hoping that ECAN and Waimate District Council would accept it. Both Councils declined to accept the application indicating to the company that deficiencies still existed including a Cultural Impact Assessment saying,

“While the resubmitted application has addressed many of the matters raised in the previous version regarding adverse effects of the discharges to air, stormwater and wastewater, there remains one critical outstanding matter that has not been dealt with adequately. As you point out, this is a very large proposal and the first of its kind in New Zealand and it therefore follows there are some wide-reaching potential effects, including many unknown effects on mana whenua. There is case law which holds that “persons who hold mana whenua are best placed to identify impacts of any proposal on the physical and cultural environment valued by them”1 . Given the scale and significance of the potential effects, it is our view that to fulfil Schedule 4 and s88(2) of the Resource Management Act (1991), a site-specific Cultural Impact Assessment is required to be completed either by, or in close consultation with Te Rūnanga o Waihao. After reviewing your revised applications this remains an outstanding matter. We therefore consider the application incomplete and are returning it in accordance with Section 88(3A).” 

The Zero Waste Network agreed with this view on the importance of a CIA and issued a media statement about it, “Cultural Impact Assessment crucial on incinerator proposal”. Subsequently the company has said it will challenge this decision, BUT, first it is working with iwi to get a CIA done so has asked for their objection to be put on hold. All of these machinations are in effect to skirt the date of new RMA legislation that would take climate emissions into account which came into effect on the last day of November 2022. The company is now saying it is going to do some public meetings with the community.

Update 24 May 2023

The Environment Court rejected ECAN’s decision to return SIRRL’s application pending a cultural impact assessment. The court said that the company could lodge the application, and it would proceed. However, just days after this ruling, ECAN came back and said that the company also needed a water take consent, so the application has again been put on hold pending the receipt of that application. In the meantime, Frank Films has released a short documentary about the community’s resistance to the project.

Update 14 June 2023

The Zero Waste Network has filed a submission with the Overseas Investment Office opposing the sale of land for the incinerator. South Island Resource Recovery Limited (SIRRL) is a majority overseas owned company: China Tianying (41%) and Europe ZhongYing BV (19%), as such the sale of sensitive land requires the consent of the Overseas Investment Office. The matter has been covered in the Timaru Herald, “Submissions filed against proposed incinerator with Overseas Investment Office.” A National interest assessment will be conducted – and the OIO has said a decision will not be made before November 2023. Meanwhile, ECAN has also indicated that SIRRL will not file their required water-take consent until later in the year, so nothing more is likely to happen on this project until very late in 2023 or beginning of 2024.

Meanwhile check out the new short film about the community’s opposition to the incinerator by Frank Films.

Update 19 June 2023

The Waimate District Council is now calling on the Minister for the Environment to call-in the application by SIRRL under the Resource Management Act. Council’s planner Emma Bush will table a report at the 20 June council meeting to seek approval from councillors to make a request to Minister David Parker to “call in” the applications. Te Rūnanga o Waihao (taking the lead role as mana whenua in respect of this application) has been in contact with the ECan and WDC, indicating support for the call in of the applications.

Updated 20 October 2023

Environment Canterbury sent a letter to the company asking for specific details on a number of key issues. Read the full letter here.

Updated 2 October 2023.

Minister for the Environment David Parker has “called in” the resource consent application for the Waimate incinerator. The best thing about this move? It means that the climate emissions will be taken into accountThe EPA says, “We are currently organising public notification of the direction and the applications under section 149C of the RMA.” So we expect that a process for making submissions will soon be open. You can read the very interesting advice the EPA gave to the Minister about the proposal: EPA advice about referring the SIRRL application to the Environment Court (PDF, 2.8MB).


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