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Mataura locals want potentially-toxic paper mill waste gone - and fast

Locals in the Southland town of Mataura want the government to step in and help get rid of hazardous waste stored in the town's old paper mill.

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Residents say they want the potentially toxic waste at the Tiwai Point smelter gone. Source: 1 NEWS

The situation gained attention during last week's flooding, as the water threatened to get the waste wet, which could potentially release ammonia gas.

At a public meeting this week, tensions boiled over, with frustrated locals demanding that something be done to get rid of it.

Gore district Mayor Tracy Hicks said at the meeting that "it is fair to say people are frustrated tonight and I understand that and I can sympathise with it.

"We know we have got the government on board, we've got the councils on board and we have got the community on board let's just get it done."

Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt said that it was about "trying to work out options and trying to work out solutions".

The owner of the waste is Rio Tinto, which operates the nearby Tiwai Point aluminium smelter, and they said in a statement that it "remains committed" to removing the material.

Stew Hamilton, New Zealand Aluminium Smelter Chief Executive, said in a statement that "we have fully cooperated with Gore District Council regarding the Council's long-standing plans to remove the material that is stored at the Mataura Paper Mill.

"We remain committed to a solution that removes the material.

"NZAS has committed to contributing $1.75 million to the costs of safely removing and processing the material.

"This process commenced in 2018 and so far 500 tonnes have been safely moved to alternate facilities."

Earlier this week Environment Minister David Parker said he is considering legal action against the company.

More talks are expected next week.