River-As-Drain No Longer Acceptable, or Exceptional

The Kawerau pulp and paper mill should not be granted consents to pollute the Tarawera River — known locally as “The Black Drain” — for another thirty-five years.

I spoke yesterday at the hearings in Whakatane for consents to discharge to air and water from the pulp mill.

The pulp mill, owned by companies Carter Holt Harvey and Norske Skog, started polluting the Tarawera River and the air around Kawerau in 1955. Now they want another 35 years of maintaining the status quo. The local Green Party and I have sought a maximum ten-year consent, as reported in the NZ Herald this morning.

We also cannot accept the companies’ repetitive use of an “exceptional circumstances” excuse to pollute and discolour the Tarawera River. Section 107 of the RMA allows for otherwise polluting discharges to air and water to be granted under “exceptional circumstances”.

‘Exceptional’ means something ‘extraordinary’ or ‘infrequent’, yet the Tarawera has been ordinarily and frequently (indeed continually) polluted for 54 years. Reapplying for “exceptional circumstances” is an unacceptable interpretation of our environmental protection laws.

The pulp and paper mill needs to demonstrate a transparent and robust plan to stop using the chlorinated chemicals that turn the Tarawera River into a polluted private drain, and do this within ten years.

Kiwifruit grower Harry Lagocki warned that the pollution damages Bay of Plenty’s horticultural industry. He said, “I have to convince buyers that my water is clean, or my fruit is rejected. This is not just tree-huggers who will be affected here, it is serious businesses with a lot to lose.”

I also challenged the hearings panel to recognise Te Tiriti o Waitangi responsibilities by honouring the consistent call by tangata whenua to stop the pollution of their river.

The hearings panel applying our environmental protection laws need to send the companies a strong message that they need to take cultural and environmental responsibility, demonstrate best practice in the management of the mill, and stop the pollution.

The companies threaten to close the mill and cause job losses as soon as they are challenged to improve their practices. We must resist these threats – this bullying approach must not be rewarded by yet another “exceptional” 35-year consent to pollute the the beautiful Bay of Plenty.

Photo from NZHerald website
Photo from NZHerald website

14 Comments Posted

  1. phillip – you are fascinated by TrollPeter’s ‘rubbishing’ of the Greens.
    That won’t last. Soon you’ll be irritated, then bored. Beyond boredom comes the temptation to play with the wee troll. There’s no gain in it (he feeds on attention) but as an idle passtime, it’s passable.

  2. The river is called the black drain because it looks black. EBOP have been testing the colour and the dioxin levels, and although dioxin levels have improved since the mill moved away from elemental chlorine, the levels are still well above background levels for NZ rivers. The black colour is also still a concern.

    The “exceptional circumstances” clause reminds me of the logic of previous minister of agriculture Jim Sutton who argued that because no codes of welfare had yet used this provision, it was quite all right for the layer hen code of welfare to claim it and allow battery cages to continue.

    Next time I am caught speeding I wonder whether I can be let off a fine because of “exceptional circumstances”. Not because I am traveling to an emergency but because nobody else has claimed to be.

  3. Well there is the evedence, a picture paints a thousand words.

    What more evedence does one need?

    Close the bastards (Harvey & Skog etc.) down until they clean up their act!!!!! That is what a responsible government would do.

    But then the environment has not been very high on the priority list of capitalist governments has it? And this government is no exception.

    CAPITALISM IS KILLING THE ENVIRONMENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. BluePeter

    Fascinating how your basic reaction to any concern raised in frogblog is to rubbish it as the ravings of extremists. Anything which we Greens want to draw attention to and improve on you react to negatively. It must be very important to you to do that or you wouldn’t hang around in this ‘space’ at all.
    I wonder if you’ve ever asked yourself why you do…..maybe a self-appointed watch-dog of extremists?!



  5. Some opponents, such as eastern Bay of Plenty tribe Ngati Awa, say the mill has damaged the river for 50 years and needs to be shut.



  6. “The water quality of the Tarawera River is greatly improved to what it was in 1961, to the point today when it would be quite feasible to allow the Tarawera River to once again flow into the Matata Lagoon with the removal of the flood gates”.

    Also looks like a railway structure is blocking part of the natural flow. Looking forward to seeing the Greens campaign to remove it….

  7. Because when people label a river “a black drain”, you just know the argument will be extremist.

    Therefore ignore.

  8. I say thank you Catherine for working hard to protect this river, and all of the other great things you are doing. I wonder if the opposition to this disgusting application for consent is too fractionated. The threats are piling up, here there and everywhere as rightly highlighted by this blog, and the many opposed are fighting but is there any coordination?

  9. Guess the lack of comments almost 4 hours after you posted this means even the climate change denying refugees from the Kiwiblog troll farm aren’t up for debating you on this one Catherine.

    Another 35 years of “exceptional circumstances” FFS!

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