SDHB comments on lignite plans

The Southern District Health Board has not taken a stance on Solid Energy NZ Ltd's proposal for a lignite briquetting plant near Mataura, but wants a thorough health impact assessment undertaken before any large scale mining applications are made in Southland.

In its submission on the application, the board says it is aware the wider health impact of more extensive lignite mining and industry cannot be considered by Environment Southland in the application.

"However, Southern DHB considers that it is important that the potential health impacts are at least brought to Environment Southland's attention, in light of possible future larger industrial ventures for Southland."

Future applications could well have a cumulative effect on the environment and while each application could only be considered on its own merits, the board was mindful of the wider effects and their potential impact on public health.

While the briquetting application was a small one, larger long-term lignite mining and associated industry could potentially have an effect on the social environment, the economy, land use, discharges to air and water and greenhouse gas emissions.

Recommending Solid Energy complete a health impact assessment before any future larger scale mining or industry resource consent applications, the board said this would have to take into account both positive and negative public health impacts, including economic and social effects, as well as physical environmental effects.

In relation to the briquetting plant, the board sought conditions relating to the monitoring of carcinogens from the discharge of water into the Mataura River.

On the question of air discharges from the plant, the board said while the effects of these had generally been assessed as less than minor, it was important to note this assumed emission rates in modelling were not exceeded.

To ensure effects were less than minor, it recommended continuous dust monitoring, a dust management plan and the use of odour monitoring to ensure smell beyond the site boundary was not offensive or objectionable.

It also asked that Environment Southland provide a comprehensive summary of all the monitoring required if consent was granted and that this schedule and monitoring data be freely available to anyone who wished to see it.

The board asked that if any future consent conditions were found to have been breached, Environment Southland should take action as immediately as practicable to ensure public health was protected.

Public Health South sought expert advice on air and water quality before preparing the submission, which was then referred to a sub-committee of board deputy Paul Menzies, and members Mary Flannery and Dr Malcolm Macpherson for approval before it was submitted.

They were given the authority to forward the submission on behalf of the board because there was insufficient time to bring the matter to another meeting.

The board indicated it might wish to be heard in support of its submission but would not be prepared to consider presenting a joint case on the same issues with others.

It said it anticipated much of the information required to satisfy its recommendations on air and water discharges could come to light before or at the hearing and might be sufficient to satisfy the board.

• The Gore District Council approved the proposed briquette plant at Craig Rd, south of Mataura, earlier this month. The project still needs water and air-quality consent from Environment Southland.


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