'Very nasty': Timaru stench being investigated

Timaru. Photo: Getty
Timaru. Photo: Getty
An investigation has launched to get to the bottom of a hideous smell plaguing Timaru.

Canterbury Regional Council has received hundreds of complaints about a stink described by some residents as a pervasive, meaty odour.

Eira was no stranger to stenches but said this one was difficult to put a finger on.

"Being a dairy farmer myself, I've smelt some similar smells," she said.

"I'm not sure where it's coming from, but at the moment maybe it's stronger with the warmer weather and with the breeze coming in off the sea, it probably pushes it in even more."

She said it was sometimes so bad during her fortnightly trip to the new Showgrounds Shopping Centre in northern Timaru that she covered her mouth and nose.

"Probably the best way to describe it would be offal. It's very nasty, and a bit of a shame because obviously we've got this new shopping centre and it's really cool to go visit the shops.

"But not great when you jump out the car and you smell that. Even sometimes I swear it lingers into the stores, so it's a bit of a turn-off," Eira said.

Abbey Bradley worked in a cafe at the shopping complex and said it was a frequent topic of conversation among staff.

"We always talk about it. When there's the smell, it's just not nice. We have to leave our doors closed because it's almost like a dead animal smell," she said.

Her main concern was for the customers, who were getting a free side of the sickening stench if they opted for al fresco seating.

"It's foul and it doesn't go away; it really lingers throughout the day. I just feel for our customers [for whom] it may be quite an unpleasant experience when they're outside eating or drinking [because] on a hot day, you don't want to be cramped in a cafe," Bradley said.

Canterbury Regional Council launched an investigation after receiving 63 odour complaints in a single day, on January 19.

Senior incident response officer Michael Nolan said that figure had since climbed to 133 complaints.

"The events of January 19 in itself is what we would call an acute odour discharge, which is the more strong, intense, offensive type of discharge that tends to impact a community at a certain time," he said.

"There are also issues around chronic odours, which are more frequent, perhaps lower-level odours that might not be as offensive on a given day but any reasonable person would object to having to tolerate on such a regular basis."

It's not the first time Timaru has had problems with stenches either - there was also a spike in complaints in 2021.

Locals and visitors alike have been posting about the pong on social media for years.

Nolan said he could not comment on the smell, its origin or previous investigations while the current one was under way.

But staff were focusing on northern Timaru and Washdyke, where the bulk of the complaints had come from on both occasions, he said.

"We can appreciate the impact it's having on them and although we can't release a lot of information while this investigation is ongoing, we want them to know that we are taking it very seriously and that they should continue to use the Smelt It website to report any offensive or objectionable odours," Nolan said.

He thanked the community for the reports it had already received, which were providing valuable data to staff.

Eira just hoped the investigation would knock the stink on its head once and for all.

"I've heard people are even wearing masks up there and thought, 'Gosh, it must be such a bad look to out-of-towners' - I mean, nobody round here enjoys it," she said.

"But say you're just stopping in Timaru, that's just going to stick with you isn't it? That that place smells."

It was not known how long the investigation would take to clear the air, but Nolan said it would likely be months.