Major industries turn their backs on plant

By John Maslin

8 comments
REJECTED: Heads Rd "wet industry" Affco opposes the new treatment plant and Tasman Tanning is believed to take a similar view.PHOTOS/FILE
REJECTED: Heads Rd "wet industry" Affco opposes the new treatment plant and Tasman Tanning is believed to take a similar view.PHOTOS/FILE

Whanganui's biggest trade waste discharger has told the district council it will not use the planned $42 million wastewater scheme.

In a letter to councillors, Affco plant manager Troy Lambly said the company "can state emphatically" it will not be part of the proposed scheme which could see waste charges increase more than 100 per cent and the wet industries paying as much as $4.5 million annually to discharge into the treatment plant.

It is understood that a second major Whanganui industry, Tasman Tanning, is taking a similar stance.

While council has not confirmed any trade waste rates, Mr Lambly said the idea of increasing fees to his company was unrealistic.

"This is not a threat but an economic reality," he said.

"It's not viable for our business to operate at the rates proposed. For the record, we will not use the current scheme proposed by council."

Affco operates two meat processing plants in the city; Imlay in Gonville employing 600 people and Land Meat in Castlecliff employing another 190 when both plants are at full production. Each plant is invoiced separately for trade waste fees by the council.

Mr Lambly said Affco paid "a seven-figure sum annually" for discharging waste into the city system.

Affco is part of the trade waste advisory group set up by the council to discuss wet industry concerns, but he said consultation was "token at best".

Affco was strongly opposed to the upgraded scheme proposed by Cardno BTO.

"The costs are unaffordable and any decision to proceed we regard as both senseless and reckless," Mr Lambly said.

"If the scheme was to proceed as proposed, we don't know what that would mean for our Imlay or Castlecliff sites."

He said Affco didn't want to be seen to be delivering threats but, in the meat processing industry, farmers had options as to where their stock was processed.

"We've been here for 100 years and have built up an international reputation. But it's a reality of the times. Any big cost to us puts everything at risk, if not the business than certainly the volumes of processing we handle. "The pressure of over-capacity within the meat processing industry is a reality and we've been looking closely at running our business. When you lump trade waste charges the council is considering into the mix, we're taking a big step backwards."

Mr Lambly said pressing on with the new wastewater treatment plant seemed a forgone conclusion.

"We're the largest trade waste users but we can't sustain those costs being considered.

"We don't expect a free ride but it's about what's reasonable to maintain a service."

He said the wet industries were in a state of disbelief that the council would press on with a project "that is unaffordable and therefore unusable".

"The decision to do so will yet again burden ratepayers with a substantial and unnecessary cost."

Affco had sought advice on taking care of its own trade waste and, about two years ago, tabled that option with council but the plant designers ruled that out.

"It's not just the up-front capital costs in setting up a plant on site but the year-on-year costs of running it. Others may want to use our plant but there's a risk. If those industries pulled out or closed down we'd be left on our own."

He said the council should look at making improvements to the original plant rather than committing to a new one.

"We have not progressed other options fully, as we were hoping 'sense' would prevail and a viable alternative would emerge. It seems council are mistakenly proceeding as if the waste scheme provides them a monopoly pricing power."

Since sending the letter, Mr Lambly has met with council chief executive Kym Fell and Mr Fell told the Chronicle the latest financial modelling showed trade waste charges increasing from the 2014-15 level of $2.25 million to $3.5 million in 2018-19, a potential increase of 55 per cent over four years. He said he had taken a lead role in seeking an agreement with Mr Lambly and Hunter Tait from Tasman Tanning.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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