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Frequently asked questions

http://www.gw.govt.nz/frequently-asked-questions-6

Frequently asked questions

Updated 10 January 2017 10:05am
What resource consents do PCC hold to operate the landfill?

PCC holds a suite of discharge consents issued by GWRC under the Resource Management Act 1991. These include consents to discharge refuse to land, and odour to air. These resource consents were issued in 1996 via a full public process, which was open to submissions, and expire in 2030.

PCC and GWRC are in the process of reviewing the consent conditions to modernize them so that they align with best practice. PCC are managing this process and will be seeking input from the community in the near future. For further information on the change of conditions, please contact PCC. 

Why are they allowed to discharge odour?

The consents only allow odour discharges to a certain threshold – much like noise is allowed to a certain decibel limit. This threshold is known as ‘offensive and objectionable’.

There is guidance from case law (Donnely v Gisborne District Council) in which the normal meaning was applied: undesirable, displeasing, annoying or open to objection.

A test will be applied by the court that the term objectionable will be as it applies to "the minds of a significant cross section of reasonable people in the community". 

How do you measure odour?

Odour can only be measured by the human nose currently. The duty officers who respond to odour complaints have all been trained on how to assess odour, and we have a standardised system to record the odour monitoring undertaken.

What makes the odours?

As with your household rubbish, refuse disposed at the landfill breaks down releasing gases – some of which are odorous. Different areas of the landfill release different odour depending on the type and age of the underlying refuse.

Why doesn't PCC stop these odours?

PCC owns the solution to these odour issues – the key is that PCC needs to manage the site to prevent offensive and objectionable odours being experienced in the community.

Why do the odours only occur sometimes?

The weather, wind and on site practices all play a part in whether an odour is experienced in the community. The site management needs to take account of all these factors to prevent offensive or objectionable odours in the community. There is still work PCC needs to do to get it right.

So what does the resource consent exactly say regarding odour?

The resource consent conditions for odour states that:

“The consent holder shall take all practicable steps to prevent offensive or objectionable odours being detected at or beyond the boundary of the site as defined by the District Plans. Offensive odour shall be determined by an enforcement officer of the Wellington Regional Council.”

This means PCC needs to do everything within their means to prevent offensive or objectionable odours beyond the landfill boundary – by putting measures in place to reduce or mitigate odours and operating within ‘best practice’ landfill management practices at all times.

As mentioned above, PCC is working towards changing these conditions. 

Who determines offensive odours?

The public and residents who live round the landfill advise GWRC of offensive or objectionable odours, and GWRC officers assess if it is offensive or objectionable. The resource consent conditions state this.

 What is an abatement notice?

An abatement notice is an enforcement tool which regulators of the Resource Management Act 1991 use to set a specific timeframe by which the individual or company (those on whom the abatement is served) shall either do a certain thing or shall cease a certain activity. 

In the case of an activity where there is a consent, an abatement notice is a powerful tool in order to help bring a consent holder into compliance with their consent, within a set time period

What makes an odour 'offensive and objectionable'?

The term ‘objectionable’ is used in consent conditions; it is a subjective term and is open to interpretation. There is guidance from case law (Donnely v Gisborne District Council) in which the normal meaning was applied: that is the odour is considered undesirable, displeasing, annoying or open to objection. GWRC has developed a standard practice and procedure to assess odour to limit the subjectivity of our odour assessments. We record the frequency, intensity and duration of the odour, as well as the level of offensiveness and the location in which the odour is detected. For example, an industrial area or a rural environment might have a higher tolerance for certain odours than a residential area. This procedure ensures that our odour assessment can stand up to challenge. You can see an example of our odour assessment sheets here. Our odour assessment procedures are in accordance with national best practice and the Ministry for the Environment Good Practice Guide (which is currently being updated).

Health

Regional Public Health is aware that residents living near the Spicer Landfill have expressed concerns about health effects due to odour issues from this landfill. GWRC met with Regional Public Health and they have provided some guidance in relation to health concerns raised. You can read this guidance directly on RPH’s website, or access this information here.