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Residents unhappy with lack of consultation

Potential neighbors of a proposed landfill yesterday slammed Dunedin City Council for its arrogance and lack of consultation.

Their lawyer said the council’s consent application was incomplete and failed to comply with water quality protection rules.

The first week of hearings for the proposed Smooth Hill landfill ended yesterday with residents of Brighton giving the Independent Commissioners their views on the council’s plans to dispose of Dunedin’s waste in their backyards.

Big Stone Rd resident Sarah Ramsay was called the “Ultimate Nimby” because the proposed landfill would be just 1km down the road.

However, due to fear many in the community had for the future of popular Brighton Beach and the environmentally sensitive Otokia Creek, his bid group raised over $20,000 to pay experts and lawyers to represent them.

Ms Ramsay and her husband took out a mortgage on their home to fund their fight.

“As a community, we feel under siege. We don’t trust the DCC and they have done absolutely nothing to alleviate that fear,” she said.

“Their utter refusal to engage in meaningful consultation with our community is arrogant at best, outright bullying at worst.”

Shane Turner said he moved into his Big Stone Rd home in 2016 and later learned of the proposal from a neighbour.

When he contacted the council in early 2020, he was told he was not considered an affected resident, he said.

Big Rock Elementary School principal David Grant said his school would halt school programs at the beach and along the creek if consent was granted.

Otokia Creek and Marsh Habitat Trust chairman Simon Laing said the trust’s restoration work was in no way intended to offset the effects of the proposed landfill.

New national environmental rules came into effect within days of the council filing its first application in August 2020, said authors’ class attorney Bridget Irving, a partner at Gallaway Cook Allan.

When the board filed its amended application last year, it was “pretty clear” that further consents were needed.

The commissioners had to decide whether the request should be deferred until the council seeks those consents, she said.

At issue was the new freshwater management policy statement.

“And as has been said many times, this policy statement and its regulatory tools represent a paradigm shift in freshwater management.

“Allowing the plaintiff to circumvent this regime risks undermining the purpose of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.”

The proposal was rightly non-compliant activity, and because it would face a higher bar, it should be denied, she said.

Andrew Rumsby, senior environmental chemist at EHS Support New Zealand, said a “full site-specific assessment of environmental effects” had not been carried out.

The council had not done a risk assessment for substances that have accumulated over time in living beings.

He said council experts said pollutants leaving the landfill would become more dilute the further they traveled away from the landfill.

“That’s just not true for a bioaccumulative substance. They bioaccumulate through the food chain and the issues are food toxicity issues.”

Wildland Consultants ecologist Kelvin Lloyd disputed evidence from council experts that effects were non-existent outside of the immediately affected area.

He said landfill leachate typically carries manufactured chemicals that can accumulate in wildlife like shellfish and eels in Otokia Creek.

The board is due to respond next Wednesday.