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Smooth Hill Discharge: Council omits crucial details

The end date of a hearing set to decide the fate of a proposed landfill near Brighton is now unknown after commissioners agreed Dunedin City Council omitted crucial details from its plan.

The commissioners adjourned proceedings in connection with the council’s bid to establish a landfill at Smooth Hill so that the council could carry out an assessment of the health risks the landfill might pose to Otokia Creek.

Chairman Rob van Voorthuysen said a “quantitative public health risk assessment” had been requested by the commissioners to help them consider the issues raised by the authors who enjoyed the cove and beach in Brighton, where the cove threw itself into the sea.

A council spokesman said yesterday that while commissioners had not given council a deadline for the assessment, council was aiming to produce one ‘as soon as possible’.

In a minute on Wednesday, Mr van Voorthuysen informed the City Council, Otago Regional Council and a group of Brighton applicants who oppose the discharge, that the assessment would include new evidence.

As such, the city council was asked to submit its report to the Brighton group’s lawyer.

Its experts would have five days to respond.

The regional council’s consultant would then have an additional five days to comment on the council’s assessment, the hearing record said.

The Brighton group have raised money to pay for legal assistance and experts to push back against the council’s discharge proposal after they said the council had been unwilling to engage with the community.

One of the group’s experts, Andrew Rumsby, senior environmental chemist at EHS Support New Zealand, who was recently involved in setting criteria to determine what waste could be accepted at AB Lime’s landfill in Southland, said told commissioners last week that in his view an environmental effects assessment had not been done for the proposed site.

The council had not done a risk assessment of manufactured chemicals that accumulate over time in living things.

These would be accepted at the landfill and could cause toxicity issues in the food chain if they entered the creek, he said.

Sarah Ramsay, a member of the Brighton group, said yesterday that the fact that the commissioners are asking the council to produce an assessment like this at this stage of the process indicated that consultation with the community had been lacking.

“I think it was a glaring omission in the first place that it wasn’t done,” Ms Ramsay said.

She believed it also lacked an assessment of the “social impact” a landfill would have on the region.

Yesterday Mr van Voorthuysen said hearing commissioners normally do not speak to the media as that is the role of the regional council.

But the city council’s end-of-hearing response to affiants’ concerns will be provided in writing in due course, he said.

The Commissioners would then decide whether to reconvene the hearing to pose questions to the council or whether, at that point, they would close the hearing and proceed to make a decision on the proposal.

During the hearing, council heard many concerns about the proposal, including the risk it posed to aviation safety if it attracted birds and whether council had sought consents appropriately in light new environmental standards to protect fresh water.

As the regional council’s consultant set out her view that Smooth Hill’s discharge request should be denied, Hearing Commissioner Jan Caunter turned to the council’s solicitor and said council’s response municipal to depositors had to be strong.

“Please keep in mind that a number of concerns have been raised with the candidate along the way and we await a full response from you on these,” she said.

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