Briquette plant 'disquiet'

Mataura residents are expressing concern about possible noise levels from Solid Energy's proposed briquette plant near the town, but expect it will be built anyway.

The $15 million plant would process 148,000 tonnes of lignite annually from the New Vale mine, about 20km away, into 90,000 tonnes of briquettes. It would be 2km south of Mataura in Craig Rd, near State Highway 1 and Dongwha's medium-density fibreboard plant.

The Gore District Council approved the proposed pilot plant on Wednesday but the project still needs water and air-quality consent from Environment Southland.

Mataura farmer Daniel Johnstone told the Otago Daily Times yesterday an invitation-only meeting with Solid Energy staff and neighbours of the proposed plant and residents of Croydon, near the New Vale mine, two weeks ago helped local people understand what was going on.

"I'm not a huge coal fan, but this plan isn't too bad because they're using coal from an existing mine. The meeting two weeks ago explained things a bit better - according to their data we'll be far enough away that we won't be affected by the noise. In saying that, many of us feel we've been left out of the loop."

Glencoe Highway resident Des Pringle, who grows peonies commercially, said he was amazed by the volume of "disquiet" at the residents' meeting with Solid Energy.

"Noise and dust pollution were two of the bigger issues and that affects me as well, because dust ruins flowers."

Mr Pringle expected the project would go ahead but thought the council and Solid Energy could have "gone about it a bit better."

Lower Mataura Valley Landcare Group chairman Mike Dumbar said he had battled with the council for years over noise from the nearby Dongwha plant and wanted the council to re-examine noise levels in the area.

"The Gore District Council is not looking after us - they haven't looked into the noise issues that are already present in the valley."

Mr Dumbar has a 100ha sheep farm on Craig Rd.

He said the council's decision to make the application non-notifiable made him feel disenfranchised.

"No, I don't think it's a very bright idea, but it [the plant] will probably go ahead anyway - it's opening the gate to what they [Solid Energy] want to do in the future."

Environmental groups, including Greenpeace New Zealand, Coal Action Network Aotearoa, and Dunedin's Southern Anti Coal Action, have protested the proposal, stating New Zealand should move away from a reliance on coal and other fossil fuels because it could be contributing to global warming.

helena.dereus@odt.co.nz