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Emissions from the Pukeuri meat processing plant boiler might have to be lowered by Alliance Group if a resource consent is granted to North Otago's biggest employer.
The consent, needed from the Otago Regional Council for the plant to continue operating, will come under the scrutiny of a three-member Otago Regional Council panel in Oamaru today.
Alliance Group Ltd has applied to renew a discharge permit for contaminants to air from the plant, including its coal-fired boiler and odours from its operations.
The application has been supported by all of 591 public submissions, including North Otago Federated Farmers, and follows meetings the company has held with the Pukeuri community, local iwi and Public Health South.
The hearing has been set down for two days at the Kingsgate Brydone Hotel before a panel consisting of independent commissioner Kevin Rolfe and regional councillors Gretchen Robertson and Sam Neill.
The Pukeuri plant was established in 1948, about 4km north of Oamaru. It employs about 1000 workers at the peak of the season, processing up to 16,000 lambs, 385 cattle and 3000 calves a day.
Since 2001, Alliance has spent $31 million at the plant on new wastewater treatment and processing equipment.
The resource consent is vital for its operations.
A report on the application by council officers recommends the consent be granted, subject to conditions, but is not binding on the panel.
The recommended time for the consent is 35 years.
One condition specifies the boiler must be upgraded to reduce discharges which might cause adverse health effects.
Discharges do not meet council requirements for improving air quality.
"Adverse effects on public health from the applicant's discharges will still occur, which are required to be remedied in the near future," the report said.
The condition requires upgrades to meet the standards set by the council by September 1, 2016.
Until then, the company would be required to burn lower-sulphur coal or another fuel, to reduce emissions.
Annual meetings with neighbours within 1.5km of the plant to discuss discharges and recording complaints, along with measures taken, is also proposed.