A woman who lives next door to a commercial horticultural business in Levin says she is sick of rubbish and odour crossing the boundary and contaminating her property, but feels her concerns are falling on deaf ears.

Joanna Sim says Woodhaven Gardens, a 400 hectare-plus produce grower, regularly disposes of rubbish, including plastics, on a large burn pile, which results in ash, smoke and half-burnt litter drifting across her gardens, compost heap, orchard and property.

A pile of rubbish that crossed the boundary from Woodhaven Gardens on to Joanna Sim's property.
A pile of rubbish that crossed the boundary from Woodhaven Gardens on to Joanna Sim's property.

She also says workers from the business discard lunch rubbish which accumulates at the boundary and roadside.

After repeatedly asking the business to contain its refuse, she has now written to the Ministries of the Environment and Primary Industries in an attempt to find a solution.

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"A fire is lit on average every two to three days when [there is] no fire ban and consists of a variety of plastics, rubber, office rubbish, pallets, furniture, plastic milk containers, foil [and] green waste," she said.

"It typically smoulders all day, sometimes for days. It drifts through all surrounding properties depending on the wind direction. I regularly get offensive smelling smoke lingering in my property, and in addition semi-burnt rubbish and ash blowing into and landing all over my property."

Ms Sim said she had asked Woodhaven Gardens to keep their refuse on their own property, and that she and several other people had made complaints to both Horowhenua District Council and Horizons Regional Council over the past few years, yet the issue persisted.

She said a fire every now and then of dry wood or paper would be fine, but regular burning of commercial rubbish in a rural area appeared to be "a loophole that could be exploited easily".

"This is not just about my property," she said.

"There are also huge amounts of litter on CD Farm Rd and parts of Whelans Rd, on the road reserve, the drains, the road and also on horticultural land which I notice is being ploughed into the soil. It seems incredulous in this day and age that a horticultural company does not dispose of its own waste properly."

She also claimed in her letter that items prohibited from burning under the Horizons One Plan guidelines were still included in the burn-offs, and was concerned about the potentially carcinogenic chemicals and toxic fumes that could be released by the uncontrolled incineration of certain plastics.

In an email to Woodhaven Gardens dated September 2013, Ms Sim described contamination of her property across the boundary, including herbicide spray drift, and the business put up a windbreak to help separate the two.

It did not solve the litter problem.

In 2017 and again early this year she again alerted managing director John Clarke to the issue, expressed concern over plastic burning and asked him to prevent workers from littering.

No response to complaints over burning

Mr Clarke has not responded to her email, or to questions put to him by the Horowhenua Chronicle, saying he was going overseas and could talk about the matter in a couple of weeks when he returned.

He said there was no one else at Woodhaven Gardens who would be able to speak on his behalf about it.

Horowhenua District Council referred questions to Horizons Regional Council, who said under the One Plan, some types of plastics could be burnt.

These are only non-halogenated plastics — which do not show a number three in a triangular recycling symbol.

Group manager strategy and regulation Dr Nic Peet said for a permitted activity, sites do not require a permit from Horizons provided they meet the specified conditions. If they breach these conditions, Horizons would consider enforcement action.

"Under the permitted activity open burning can not cause an objectionable odour or smoke beyond the property boundary," he said.

"We are aware of the neighbours' concerns associated with open burning at Woodhaven Gardens. As such, when notified of burning, we prioritise attendance to assess compliance with the above rule."

He confirmed Horizons had received a letter about Woodhaven on January 22, and that a response was "currently being worked on."

Woodhaven Gardens have received accolades in the past for good environmental practice, including a nomination for the Ballance Farm Environment Awards in 2016, however Mr Clarke has been involved with contoversial burning on a previous occasion.

In March last year, emergency services attended a large building structure fire, which Mr Clarke believed he had permission for and which he said at the time was part of a plan to extend Woodhaven Gardens.

A Horizons spokesperson said afterwards the regional council did not give out permits for structure fires and the burn was therefore unauthorised, but Mr Clarke said he had been given verbal permission by Wellington Fire Brigade.