The Battle for Pukemiro

This week I travelled to a small community west of Huntly, driving over the Tainui Bridge and through the current coal mining area until I reached the windy hill country and two small villages – Glen Afton and Pukemiro.

These communities back onto a former open cast coal pit, the owner of which now wants to turn it into a 22 hectare landfill.  He wants to truck rubbish from all over the country to this quiet place, where people have lived through the destruction of the mining operations and more recently Solid Energy’s job cuts.

On the face of it, a former open cast coal might sound like an alright place for municipal waste.  But as I learned from the locals (who are very passionate and very informed), there are myriad problems associated with living nearby. Firstly there’s the likelihood of smell and leachate from the rubbish. The old coal mine is honeycombed with holes underneath it so it will be nigh impossible to control the untreated leachate if there is a hole in the landfill liner. The consent for the landfill is for 35 years but at the hearing the liner was given a 15 year life span.

The treated leachate will drain into a stream that flows into Lake Waahi in Huntly, then into the Waikato river. The odour will be controlled to theoretically acceptable limits, but acceptable to whom? The owner and developer of the project has a history of consent breaches, including a $40,000 for illegal tyre dumping. He also burned tyres for over a fortnight – DOC had to manage the incident as there is a strip of conservation land less than 1km away and the fumes drove some residents from their homes.

Meanwhile the possible effects of combining toxic coal waste with organic matter and heavy metals from landfill rubbish are yet to be addressed.

The community group fighting the landfill is opposing the consent and attending mediation. The cost of appeal  is intimidating but it remains an option because they want to heal the land from coal mining rather than deal with the effects of a new environmental hazard.

I don’t think these little communities deserve having other communities’ waste dumped next to them. If we had to seriously reduce waste we would, but because we don’t, Pukemiro is battling on. I am with them.


5 Comments Posted

  1. Not in spite of us, BJ, but because of us. The paper you’ve cited makes this abundantly clear.

    Speaking of the paper; it’s a straight rehash (though with better numbers) of the story that every student of Peak Oil could tell.

    The paper is all about EROEI. EROEI is very like cashflow in a business. Cashflow just doesn’t matter in a business, untill the day arrives when there is inadequate cashflow, and then restoring cashflow is all that matters, and failure to rectify cashflow shutters the business. Simerlarly, EROEI doesn’t matter until there isn’t the energy to invest. Then it’s game over.

    I remain convinced that if the business community could be convinced that EROEI is like cashflow, they might start to “get it”.

    Chapter 6.4, the renewables chapter, is really interesting, and is essenital reading for anyone who thinks renewables are the solution.

    Chapter 7 reminds us that we are fucked. The last sentence is priceless.

  2. Plse keep us posted on this. And would every able bodied reader /New Zealander overview the way they shop and use the earth’s resources please? We all create waste and we ALL should be doing something about it.

    I’ve observed environmentally informed, intelligent individuals (never mind the rest of us! )throwing objects into the waste stream that scream a second life available somewhere. Convenience ( in all it’s forms ) and just not taking the time to think it through for a minute is often at the bottom of it. Allegedly time poor lifestyles need to be adjusted or we will be all the poorer….resource and money wise.

  3. I visited the huge land fill outside Perth where shafts lead to chimneys
    the gas emited from these is turned into fuel.

    I believe there are ways to make these land fills work, but it requires money and know how. If the owner just wants to make profit from the dumping of refuse, I would say NO but if he is willing to find out what is possible then that sounds better.

    Once read a SCi fiction story where future generations mined land fills because stocks of precious metals had run out on earth.

    Make you sick when you realise what is dumped and how the company with the contract receives payment for what it dumps rather than recycling.

    Waiheke had a booming refuse dump idea until Banksie sold us out to a bankcrupt Ozzie company. We were able to recycle much rubbish, now it all goes to Auckland truck load after truck load and is dumped. Shame on that city council.

    Now we have the Chinese about to take over waste management, I wonder if they will recycle or just dump?

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