Tasman Pulp and Paper Mill in Kawerau can continue to pump effluent into the Tarawera River, known as the 'black drain' and emit gas and dust for the next 25 years after its resource consent was renewed recently.
The commissioners when approving the consent admitted that the quality of the river was degraded as a result of the discharges, but said called this case an exceptional circumstance, outweighed by social and economic benefits the mill provided in the forestry industry.
As far as we can tell there is no pressure on the owners (Carter Holt Harvey and Norske Skog) to clean up their act.
Amongst the protestors to the resource consent were The Green party, mill neighbours and Maori. The June edition of the Whakatane Beacon stated:
"The Green party submission, lodged in the names of MP Catherine Delahunty and her partner Gordon Jackman, a former Greenpeace activist, said the Norske Skog and Carter Holt Harvey applications showed a lack of commitment to further improving their discharges to air and water, and to investigating alternatives.It doesn't inspire confidence that the same principles won't apply to the mining companies whom the government may allow to access vast tracts of previously protected conservation land to exploit their mineral wealth, estimated to be in the region of $140 billion, almost seven times as much as tourism brings in. The estate under consideration is said to include oil reserves in Fiordland National Park and gold and coal in Kahurangi and Paparoa parks.
They said the mills relied on using the Tarawera River as a drain and had breached the Treaty rights of tangata whenua including Ngati Awa, Ngati Rangitihi and Tuwharetoa.
“We do not accept that using the Tarawera as a drain is the only option for the mills to operate and provide jobs in the region,” Ms Delahunty and Mr Jackman said.
They said the 35-year consent terms sought by “a polluting industry” were unacceptable and if the consents were granted the terms should be restricted to 10 years.
They cited the dark colour of the Tarawera River and its “dioxin-contaminated fish”, as reasons for their concerns.
Ms Delahunty and Mr Jackman said the mills emitted a range of highly toxic substances to the air, including benzene, volatile organics and chlorine compounds.
They disputed claims by Norske Skog and Carter Holt the effects of these discharges were no more than minor...."
Green MP Catherine Delahunty has drafted a Member’s Bill that would prevent polluters from being granted consent to indefinitely pollute waterways under an “exceptional circumstances” clause. It would limit the length of consents granted under exceptional circumstances to five years.
How long until NZ can no longer pretend it is clean, green and 100% pure?
See also: 'Does NZ deserve its clean green image?' in the Herald and the reader responses to this question.