Dunedin's rubbish problem could be shipped out of town

The Dunedin City Council may have to resort to exporting its rubbish in coming years, due to a lack of planning and foresight.

The council said it was an unlikely scenario but contingency plans needed to be put in place and, in a worst case scenario, some rubbish may end up trucked north of Christchurch.

In 2023 the Dunedin City Council's resource consent for its Green Island landfill will expire.

That may be a moot point because by then - if current waste disposal rates continue - it will be full.

On top of this, the council has been slow to plan for the future.

Council waste and environmental solutions group manager Chris Henderson said attempts to find solutions were made in 2014 and 2016.

"Unfortunately those processes haven't resulted in any successful conclusion," he said.

That had only added to the urgency, Mr Henderson said.

"The processes of the past should have been more successful than they have been."

The council are now left with a handful of options, many of which it doesn't have control over.

It could apply to the Otago Regional Council to expand the footprint of the current landfill or extend the resource consent beyond 2023 - but that will require a reduction in the waste produced by residents.

Plans are afoot for a new landfill at Smooth Hill, about 20 kilometres south of the existing site, but it could be close to a decade before it's ready.

Instead the council has started to prepare for the possibility of exporting waste out of the city and, potentially, the region.

Mr Henderson said there were various options on the table, including landfills in Otago and Southland, which had yet to be fully discussed with all of the stakeholders involved.

In the worst case scenario, waste could be transported up to Kate Valley Landfill in Canterbury, which was about 40 minutes north of Christchurch, he said.

A full review of the city's waste disposal service was underway, Mr Henderson said.

Councillor Jim O'Malley said he was pleased the work was taking place.

But he was critical about how far behind the eight ball the council was and the local government legislation which he said was hamstringing authorities throughout the country.

"I think this is a product of the Local Government Act and the extent to which power has been taken away from councillors and moved to the administrative side of the council. Nobody's behaved illegally here, but I think that councillors should have been more heavily involved in the long term plan," Mr O'Malley said.

The 10 year plan does not have provisions for what happens to the city's waste after the Green Island landfill closes.

Adding to the concerns is the viability of the Smooth Hill site.

Saddle Hill Community Board chair Scott Weatherall said council staff were using data dating back 10 to 15 years, which could prove costly to update.

"Back then Smooth Hill was the most preferred location, that's why the redesignation of the area was put in," he said.

"But the reality is the way that we do waste has changed quite significantly in last 15, 20 years and may well change in the next five years."

The council needed to have the right information before sending it out to residents for consultation, Mr Weatherall said.

Dunedin City councillor Aaron Hawkins said exporting waste should only come as a stop-gap last resort.

"We've also seen recently in China and Vietnam how vulnerable you are in those circumstances when the receiving party turns around one day and decides to stop taking it, which would always be an option," he said.

"We're seeing local councils around the country and people in other parts of the world really struggling now with what they are doing."

Jim O'Malley said he was yet to raise his concerns with Mayor Dave Cull, who is also Local Government New Zealand's president, but hoped legislation would allow councillors greater input into the next 10-year plan.

Attempts to contact Mr Cull on Friday were unsuccessful.

The council will consider the future of Dunedin's waste in an Infrastructure Services and Networks Committee meeting on Monday.

- Tess Brunton

A landfill. Source: