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The work to take thousands of tonnes of hazardous waste from Mataura’s disused paper mill continued yesterday.
Stephen Parry said the work — which started in October last year — was aligned with the expectations but agreed the process was "not fast as the community would want".
"I know they think it is too slow and people want it gone. Who doesn’t? But options are limited."
Mr Parry said the work was expected to be completed in two and a-half years but the first 12 months would be the most challenging
After the first year, the weight of the removal was due to triple, he said.
"I think the good news is, about a week ago, I was told about the contractor that they had removed their biggest volume of premix or dross from the building in the previous month.
"So they managed to pull 270 tonnes in one removal process and this is very encouraging.
"I don’t have the exact figures but [I believe] it would be about between 750 and 800 tonnes that had been removed by now."
The ouvea premix, a byproduct of production at New Zealand Aluminium Smelters’ Tiwai Point facility, was dumped at the mill without resource consent in 2015 by Taha Asia Pacific.
Taha went into liquidation the following year and the waste sat there until March 2018, when government and local councils agreed to a $4million deal with New Zealand Aluminium Smelters to remove and dispose of the waste over six years.
When mixed with water, the product can create a toxic ammonia gas cloud. It came under threat in February this year when the Mataura River flooded and threatened the paper mill.
The Government has been trying to fast-track its removal since, but all removal work ceased under the Level 4
Mr Parry said the contract in place provides for moving the dross from the factory in up to two and a-half years.
He believed the contractor was doing a great job and believed the removal "was on track".