Delegation on $11k fact-finding mission not allowed inside Ecogas organics plant; but trip still worth it

The new south Hornby plant will be similar to Ecogas' Reporoa organics processing facility near...
The new south Hornby plant will be similar to Ecogas' Reporoa organics processing facility near Rotorua. PHOTO: ECOGAS
Christchurch City Council spent $11,000 on a fact-finding mission to two North Island organics processing plants - but no one on the trip was allowed to look inside or take photos of the key facility.

The trip was organised to see firsthand what Ecogas’ new South Hornby plant, which will replace the controversial Bromley open-air organics composting site, could look like and how it would operate.

It came after concerns from South Hornby residents they were inheriting the smelly Bromley problem.

The group of 16 on the trip was made up of Hornby, Templeton and Prebbleton residents’ association representatives, city councillors, community board members and senior city council managers.

The group returned saying there would be no issues with smell.

But The Star can reveal those on the trip were told by the city council before they left they would not be able to go inside the processing plant at Reporoa, near Rotorua. They were able to look inside Ecogas’ sorting and consolidating plant at Papakura in Auckland.

Marc Duff.
Marc Duff.
Instead, the group viewed live camera feeds from outside the Reporoa facility.

Greater Hornby Residents’ Association member Marc Duff said he was not concerned.

“Ecogas has spent a lot of money on its new technology so I understand why we weren’t allowed was due to commercial sensitivity. I don’t think there is anything underhand going on,” he said.

City council resource recovery manager Alec McNeil, who was on the trip, said the council was aware of the request not to take photos and that the group would not be able to go inside Reporoa facility before organising the trip.

“The two North Island Ecogas sites we visited are privately-owned commercial facilities and any images showing operations are carefully managed by Ecogas. Safety is a priority, so visitors were allowed to take photos/videos in areas where it was appropriate and safe to do so.

“The only restricted access was inside the reception hall. The council delegation was able to observe the site layout, traffic movements, bio scrubber (which cleans the air), the anaerobic digestion tanks, pasteuriser and infrastructure for gas capture and utilisation.”

The smelly Bromley plant. Photo: CCC
The smelly Bromley plant. Photo: CCC
GHRA chair Derek Phelps said green waste and processed waste was contained in tanks on the plant sites.

When the doors were open at the Reporoa site, there were a few odours, Phelps said.

“But, once we were outside the boundary, there were fewer smells and a few hundred metres away, there was absolutely nothing.”

Duff said they spoke to businesses and residents near the Reporoa facility.

“We spoke to nearby businesses and residents who confirmed they had similar worries about the odour which have not come to fruition,” he said. 

Halswell Community Board member Debbie Mora said she has a much better understanding of Ecogas’ operations because of the trip.

The GRHA held a meeting on Sunday to give residents feedback on the trip, where a new issue emerged – traffic.

Said Duff: “It’s really time to have a look at the whole Hornby roading system. It’s been a build up slowly since the earthquake as we’ve seen more people move into the area, and more heavy transport.”