Super dump bombshell

The Waste Management property falls within the yellow dotted line. The solid green line marks the outer border of the landfill site. Trees will be harvested under the current land use, and the valley will be excavated, shaped and fully lined to create the landfill. The red line marks the proposed new access road off SH1.

News that industry giant Waste Management wants to develop a major new landfill site for the Auckland region in the Dome Valley has been greeted with shock and dismay by the local community.

Waste Management, which is owned by Beijing Capital, has obtained Overseas Investment Office approval for the purchase of a large block of land to the east of State Highway 1, between Forestry Road and the Hoteo River, including the Springhill property and airstrip.

The landfill itself would be sited in a valley 1km off the highway on land that is currently owned by Matariki Forestry.

The company is yet to make any resource consent applications, but is planning to lodge these following a consultation and assessment period from now until December, which includes two open days this month (see below).

Waste Management posted its Auckland Regional Landfill plans on its website on Monday, September 24 and started contacting local residents who live nearest to the proposed site. Primary teacher Leane Barry was the first to receive a visit from the company’s technical officers and she quickly spread the news and excerpts from the proposal brochure on local social media pages.

Many people have expressed horror at the prospect of up to 300 extra trucks travelling through the Dome Valley every day, as well as concerns over the implications for the Hoteo River and the many other streams that flow through the site.

Springhill, which is the former home of the late tech millionaire Tony Lentino and, prior to that, Wellsford businessman and philanthropist Richard Izard, went on the market in August last year. However, Waste Management managing director Tom Nickels says the company had already picked out the forestry block as its preferred site before that.

“This was identified before Springhill Estate was available for purchase,” he said.

He added that there were a number of considerations Waste Management had weighed up when looking for a potential site to replace its existing Redvale landfill at Dairy Flat, which is due to close in 2028.

“These include consideration of culturally sensitive and significant natural areas, the distance of the site from Auckland and access to highways, and providing a ‘buffer’ of land between the landfill and neighbouring residences, which will be a 1km radius at this site. Also, geology and separation from sensitive rivers and aquifers has been considered,” he said. “Combining all these criteria, a search throughout the Auckland region north of the bridge identified the site on current Matariki Forest land, behind Wayby and Dome Valleys, as the most appropriate site for the proposal.”

While he acknowledged community concerns over increased heavy traffic, he maintained that road safety remained a priority with this project and for all the company’s operations. “We will continue to work with the community and NZTA on this aspect of our proposal,” Mr Nickels said.

He referred to NZTA’s project to improve safety through the Dome Valley and said additional improvement projects were under investigation by the NZTA.

“We will continue to engage with them on the proposed landfill,” he said.

Concerned residents have set up a Facebook group at – Fight the tip. Save the Dome – to coordinate a response to the proposal.


Waste Management is holding two public open days this month at Springhill Estate, 1232 State Highway 1 in the Dome Valley: Wednesday, October 17, 3pm to 7pm. Saturday, October 27, 9am to 1pm. The open days  provide an opportunity to learn about the proposed landfill, ask questions and give feedback.

Read the proposal document.


Dump proposal leaves neighbour reeling

Dome Valley resident Leane Barry lives on SH1 surrounded by native bush. The news that her family home will be just 1km from a proposed new landfill came “like a bolt from the blue”.

Primary school teacher Leane Barry was at home cooking dinner on Monday last week when two men in suits came into her driveway and gave her news that left her reeling.

“They said they were from Waste Management and said, ‘We’ve just come to let you know about the landfill’,” she recalls. “I said, ‘What landfill?’ and he said a landfill was going in the Dome Valley.”

It was a complete bolt from the blue for Leane, who moved to her home on SH1 with her extended family three years ago only after carrying out due diligence and making sure there was no development planned near their property, which backs onto conservation land and Matariki Forestry blocks.

“We’d heard nothing at all from anybody; it was like a shot out of hell,” she says. “I didn’t sleep at all that night. It was the saddest day of my life.

“I said to him, ‘Is this for real, because you surely do not put this thing on one of the deadliest roads in the North Island … surely you don’t do that?’

“It’s not that we just want to protect ourselves, there’s just nothing about this thing that makes any kind of sense. Surely to goodness there is land somewhere that’s not on this State Highway. We’re not stupid, we understand rubbish has to go somewhere, but this is about common sense.”

As well as traffic safety concerns, Leane is worried about the effects the landfill would have on the environment, not least since she regularly drives past Waste Management’s Redvale site, which the Dome Valley site would replace, if consented.

“I teach at Northcross Intermediate and have to pick up a child on my way, so I go through Dairy Flat every day,” she says. “So, I know the smell, I know the stink of the trucks, I know how dirty the access road is – that’s not the look they want for our main highway.

“And there’s no way it can’t impact on the waterways.”

Leane is also unimpressed with how she found out about the proposed landfill, via an unannounced cold call from Waste Management technical officers.

“He just showed me the brochure, said this is going to be for the community and we’ve just been approved to get our finance from overseas, it’s going to offer jobs. The impression I got was that I should have been honoured that they chose to give us this knowledge first.”

She says she is still trying to come to terms with the news, but intends to join forces with as many other Dome Valley residents as she can.

“I just don’t believe this has happened, I don’t have the words for what they want to do. This is not
how things happen.”

Waste Management managing director Tom Nickels said visiting some properties in person was the only way to reach some residents quickly to give them the opportunity to hear the proposal in detail, provide early feedback and ask questions, especially when they had no phone numbers for a property.

“We are sorry to hear this approach has upset any neighbours, whose feedback is very important to us,” he said. “We are keen to continue discussing our proposal with them and the wider community, understanding any concerns and obtaining feedback.”


Muted response from Council and NZTA

Initial official responses to the landfill proposal have been largely muted, with Auckland Council and local government representatives unwilling or unable to comment in detail until formal consent applications have been lodged.

According to the timeline in its proposal document, Waste Management expects to make its applications in December. Ian Smallburn, Auckland Council’s general manager for resource consents, said until a consent application was lodged and the appropriate consent process followed, Council was unable to comment on the merits, or otherwise, of the proposal. Cr Greg Sayers said he would want the resource application to be fully publicly notified, so anyone with concerns could formally lodge their objections.

“This could include concerns about the amount of trucks travelling through the Dome Valley, or any other concern, and due process should be followed,” he said.

NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) senior system design manager Kevin Reid said NZTA could not comment on the proposal at this time, although Waste Management managing director Tom Nickels said the company had already begun discussions with NZTA regarding the proposed landfill, and the associated traffic and safety considerations.

“We are aware this is a concern for the community. Safety on our roads remains a priority for us with this project and for all of our operations. We will continue to work with the community and NZTA on this aspect of our proposal,” he said.

Rodney Local Board chair Beth Houlbrooke said it was inappropriate for her and other board members to make public comments about activities for which the Board had not received detailed information.

Rodney MP Mark Mitchell says his gut reaction is that the company should forget about building the landfill at that site unless there is a commitment from the Government to build the new Warkworth to Te Hana motorway. “In terms of truck movements, it would place enormous pressure on the existing state highway.”


WE SAY: High cost of waste

If there is one thing Waste Management can do, it is keep a secret. Little did Leane Berry know when she answered a knock on her door last week that her world was about to be turned upside down (see story 3). Local politicians, both council and national, were also apparently unaware that NZ’s largest waste operator was laying down the groundwork for a massive landfill at the northern end of the Dome. As for residents in the wider catchment, they got their first whiff of the super dump from social media.

There were some, of course, who did know. The contract to sell the property was negotiated nearly a year ago, pending Overseas Investment Office approval, and it stretches credibility to suggest that someone, somewhere within the bureaucracy of Auckland Council has not been aware of this plan from the start. Given that the super dump will mean, conservatively, 300-plus truck movements every day along State Highway 1, the NZ Transport Agency must also have been consulted.

Far be it from this newspaper to know the pros and cons of a project of this scale when, so far, details are only just emerging. However, the reality is that if we continue to produce waste at the astronomical rate we do, then we also have to dispose of it and it will always be in somebody’s backyard. Recycling and re-purposing waste is to be commended, but the real issue that no one wants to talk about is consumption. Our economy is based on getting people to spend, spend, spend but, as long as we continue to buy cheap, disposable and over-packaged products, often that we don’t even really need, then our environment will pay the price.

For anyone who has lived in the Mahurangi for any length of time, change is happening at an accelerating rate. We watch as farms and bush are bulldozed for motorways and housing and now, apparently, super dumps, and the morning birdsong is replaced with wheels on tar seal. The idea that we are “rural” is fast disappearing. What we will be at the end of it all is anyone’s guess.

 

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