ORC request puts landfill application on hold

Smooth Hill, site of the proposed landfill. Photo: ODT files
Smooth Hill, site of the proposed landfill. Photo: ODT files
The consent application for a proposed new landfill south of Dunedin is on hold while the Otago Regional Council seeks more information from the Dunedin City Council.

The city council lodged its resource consent application with the regional council to operate a landfill at Smooth Hill, 7km from Brighton Beach, at the end of August.

Some locals have rallied against the decades-old proposal, called for a publicly notified process, and called foul because if the application had been lodged a week later, it would not have been acceptable due to new freshwater rules protecting wetlands that came into force on September 3.

An online petition to the city council, "Stop the Brighton Landfill", has since gathered 1357 signatures.

Last week, Otago Regional Council consents manager Joanna Gilroy said that the information sought by the regional council related to four areas: the criteria used for the evaluation of alternative locations included in the application, understanding the waste management system, the types of consents sought and if others were needed, and the conditions proposed.

"Until this information is provided the application remains on hold," Ms Gilroy said.

"We are unable to say how long it will take for a decision to be made on notification, and if it will be notified or not, but this decision will be made once the further information has been provided and reviewed."

She said requests for further information were a common part of the consent process and the amount of information the council was seeking was normal for an application of this size.

Last week, the city council could not say when it would provide the regional council with the extra information.

A spokesman said the council accepted the request for added information as fair and as normal for processing of "significant" consents.

The spokesman said the council did not accept the application was rushed.

"Work to prepare the application began in early 2019 and the original target date for lodgement of the consent applications was early 2020.

"This target date was later moved to mid-2020, but was then further delayed due to Covid-19 restrictions," he said.

Otokia Creek and Marsh Habitat Trust chairman Simon Laing said that the request for extra information gave him faith the regional council was being thorough and "asking the right questions".

"It appears the Otago Regional Council is asking the question that is on all of our lips.

"That is, ‘Why has it been nearly three decades since alternatives have been considered?’," he said.

"I think a lot has changed. I think the current council has been hemmed in by previous councils’ inaction on this issue.

"And with the impending closure of the Green Island landfill, the DCC [city council] has felt compelled to dust off the Smooth Hill proposal and sneak it through to the keeper.

"I’m not privy to everything they’re reading, but that’s just how I interpret it."

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