News

6 July 2021

Ouvea premix gone from Mataura

Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks said Mataura residents can now enjoy peace of mind with the last bag of ouvea premix removed last week from the town’s former paper mill.

It has been six months since all parties involved in this issue agreed to speed up removing the Class 6 hazardous substance, following legal action brought by the Environmental Defence Society.

Mr Hicks has welcomed the news that all 10,000 tonnes stored in Mataura has been removed, saying it would bring relief for residents.

“The presence of this substance has caused all sorts of anxiety and consternation for residents.

“They can now have peace of mind, and not before time,” he said.

Ouvea premix is a by-product from aluminium dross processing at the New Zealand Aluminium Smelters' Tiwai Point smelter, south of Invercargill. When wet, it releases toxic ammonia gas.

“How anyone thought it was a good idea to store this product in a building next to a river in a semi-residential area is beyond me,” Mr Hicks said.

Taha Asia Pacific started storing ouvea premix at the former Carter Holt Harvey paper mill without resource consent in 2014. The company applied for and was granted a consent retrospectively in 2015 and then liquidated in 2016.

Mr Hicks said the Council took immediate steps to rectify the situation when it became aware of the significant quantity of ouvea and its risk.

Gore District Chief Executive Stephen Parry said getting agreement around the removal of the substance had been a very complex problem.

It had taken 18 months of negotiations to secure a deal in July 2019 between NZAS, the Government, Southland’s local authorities and the landlords of storage sites in the province.

“All parties felt they were victims and had been let down by Taha. It had been very taxing trying to get people to step up.”

Mr Hicks said he was pleased Rio Tinto, the majority owner of Tiwai, had accepted financial responsibility and expedited removal of the substance from storage sites.

Mr Parry also acknowledged the “sea change in attitude around liability” evident after leadership changes within Rio Tinto. He also applauded the efforts of Australian-based company Inalco, which would be taking the premix for processing.

“It has been fantastic to deal with.”

As well as the 10,000 tonnes at Mataura, there were about 12,000 tonnes of ouvea in storage around Invercargill.

NZAS Chief Executive and General Manager Operations Stew Hamilton said: I am very pleased the community of Mataura no longer has to worry about any potential environmental impacts from this material. We are now focusing on removing the material from other sites around Southland.”ENDS

Gore District Council 29 Bowler Avenue Gore P: 03 209 0330 E: info@goredc.govt.nz