The process to remove toxic ouvea premix from the old Mataura Paper Mill site will be expedited after the parties involved reached an agreement in court today.
The premix, a by-product of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter, lets off ammonia gas when wet.
It has been the source of several scares over the past year, including flooding that threatened to overtake the mill and a nearby fire.
The agreement was reached between the Environmental Defence Society and New Zealand Aluminium Smelters Ltd. in the Environmental Court in Christchurch following legal action by the Defence Society to determine ownership and removal of the ouvea premix.
The proceedings were joined by Environment Minister David Parker, who helped facilitate the solution for its removal.
It follows increasing pressure by concerned locals in the Southland town for Government action.
The removal process is now underway, and is expected to be completed by late April, Judge LJ Newhook, who presided over the case, said today in a report.
The by-product is now being transported to the New Zealand Aluminium Smelters site at Tiwai Point, where it will be stored in containers, Judge Newhook said. It's understood the product will then be exported.
"I consider that the agreement will give Mataura residents peace of mind, freeing them from anxiety about the risk of water from the river impacting the material," Judge Newhook said.
"I believe the agreement offers twin benefits of protecting the wellbeing of Southland's people and its waterways."
Additional costs for its accelerated removal will be split evenly between the Ministry for the Environment and New Zealand Aluminium Smelters.
The Crown has provided an indemnity to New Zealand Aluminium Smelters for certain losses it may incur through the storage of the material.
Environment Southland chairman Nicol Horrell said today he welcomed the agreement to fasttrack its removal to a more secure location following three "recent near-misses" at the site.
"Environment Southland has been a party to this long-running issue, first identifying it illegally dumped in 2014, subsequently prosecuting and discovering the storage at the Mataura Paper Mill through an enforcement order," Horrell said.
"This is the best possible outcome, providing the Mataura residents with peace of mind while also protecting our waterways."
Judge Newhook said the health and safety of the communities and contractors involved in the by-product's removal process are "upper-most in the minds of the parties" in reaching the agreement.