ORC to be investigated over role in illegal dumping in Clutha

The dumping of waste building materials into the Clutha River earlier this year is set to be the subject of an independent investigation.

Otago Regional Councillors authorised the probe at a meeting yesterday to be headed up by retired High Court judge Sir Graham Pankhurst.

It will investigate the circumstances that resulted in the contaminants being dumped into the river on February 9, 2021, and look at whether processes or procedures could be implemented to avoid such an incident occurring again in the future.

An investigation into the dumping by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found the illegal dumping occurred after Andrew Haulage spoke to two ORC staff members.

The ORC was issued warning for permitting the Balclutha-based company to dump the material.

ORC chairman Andrew Noone said every member of the council took seriously their obligation to be a guardian of the environment for present and future generations.

The council would not make further comment until the terms of reference of the inquiry were finalised, but the outcome would be publicly notified in line with its objectives of honesty and transparency.

A media release from council chief executive Sarah Gardner said the inquiry was to be process focused, looking at lessons learned from the situation.

It was not to be an employment investigation, as these responsibilities sat with Ms Gardner, and not the councillors.

She said she respected the decision of the council to order the probe, and will assist the inquiry, consistent with legal obligations.

The Environmental Protection Authority says the dumping of construction material in the Clutha...
The Environmental Protection Authority says the dumping of construction material in the Clutha River near Balclutha earlier this year was the result of due process not being followed. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Earlier this year Ms Gardner raised a code of conduct complaint against deputy chairman Michael Laws after he made comments in the media about the dumping.

An investigation by Wellington Lawyer Steph Dyhrberg found Mr Laws had not breached the code.

It follows an investigation into the dumping EPA, which began in March after a Balclutha resident saw a truck with the company’s branding dumping waste building materials down the riverbank behind the Balclutha Aerodrome.

A formal warning letter, which was provided to the Otago Daily Times by the council, said Andrew Haulage managing director Colin Calteaux approached a council staff member in December 2020 while they were visiting his depot on unrelated matters.

Mr Calteaux asked the employee if he could put demolition material into the river to cover an area that was eroding.

The council employee allegedly responded by acknowledging they did not see any reason why Mr Calteaux could not do that, the letter said.

In January, he spoke to another staff member about the location where the demolition material could be put.

That staff member provided general advice on how the banks of the Clutha River could be protected, the letter said.

 

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