A popular Tauranga transfer station is closing to the public partly due to an "unacceptable" level of pollution seeping into stormwater drains.
The announcement comes as part of a $20.5 million overhaul to the city's waste management services in which the Maleme Street Transfer Station will close while a new facility will be built as part of a major upgrade to the Te Maunga Transfer Station.
It was also expected that much of the transfer station's services would no longer be as needed with the start of the council's kerbside waste collection in July.
No jobs were expected to be lost and the transfer station would remain open to contractors and account holders.
As part of the council's shift in waste management, it received $20.5m in government funding to help with the transition. The funding comes from the Ministry for the Environment's Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.
Council sustainability and waste manager Sam Fellows said about $8.1m of this funding would help the council purchase and recycle existing bins from current waste collection operators, whose services would become redundant from July.
The money would also help fund a major upgrade to the Te Maunga Transfer Station, transforming it into a Resource Recovery Park. The site is expected to include a $10.5m construction and demolition plant.
The remainder will go towards optical sorting equipment at the Material Recycling Facility on Truman Lane, next to the Te Maunga Transfer Station. This will use automated optical sorting equipment for grading different plastics such as milk bottles (HDPE) and juice bottles (PET).
Fellows said the government funding meant the cost of the kerbside waste collections would now be $210 for residents in the first year, not $230 as originally planned. The cost includes GST and the current annual charge of $37.34 for glass recycling.
Upgrades to the Te Maunga Transfer Station are expected to cost $14.5m, with $3m covered by the station's income – not ratepayers.
Works to the Te Maunga station are expected to start later this year and people will still be able to access the facility during the upgrade.
Fellows said the contamination from the Maleme Street Transfer Station at times had become "unacceptable". It was also no longer financially viable to keep it open to the public.
Closure to the public was "the most favoured outcome".
"This is because the Maleme Street Transfer Station is located on a low-lying site, which is prone to flooding. This has led to an unacceptable level of contaminants, mostly from vehicles, entering stormwater drains. Contaminated stormwater affects our natural waterways, disturbing animal and plant life."
The council had "unsuccessfully tried to reduce the contaminants and have investigated several more options".
Copper and zinc were the main contaminants that had been washing into the stormwater drain and people's vehicles - specifically tyres and brake pads - were considered to be the main source of this, Fellows said.
"Much of the site operation takes place in uncovered areas, including the drop-off and storage of garden waste and the movements of refuse bins. When it rains, these metals wash into the stormwater drain, causing pollution.
"Because the contaminants are mainly from vehicles using the recycling and garden waste areas, if fewer vehicles are accessing the transfer station this will lead to less contaminants."
Fellows said the transfer station was built over 20 years ago and was not designed to cater for the high volume of traffic it now received. The number of people using Tauranga's recycling centres at each transfer station was double the number of users for general rubbish and garden waste drop off.
This included households from the Western Bay of Plenty who also used Tauranga's two transfer stations due to the district not having one of its own, Fellows said.
The transfer station's age also meant its original resource consent did not include account for discharge into the stormwater network. However, in 2012 the legislation changed and consent is now needed for this and has since been obtained.
"As our city continues to grow, the pressure on the transfer station and subsequently, out stormwater system, increases. The site currently has an abatement notice for not meeting its stormwater consent requirements."
Data gathered did not specify where users came from or how far they had travelled, meaning the council was unable to assess total traffic and CO2 impacts.
Fellows said the closure would be disappointing to some people but it was expected the new kerbside recycling service would prevent the need for most trips to a transfer station.
People still needing a transfer station will need to use the Te Maunga facility.
Minister for the Environment David Parker said the funding would support essential waste infrastructure projects in Tauranga that also served the broader Bay of Plenty region.
"By reducing the amount of material, especially organics, fibre and construction waste, transported to landfill, we greatly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions created from waste in the region.
Council commission chairwoman Anne Tolley welcomed the funding, saying Tauranga sent "far more waste to landfill than is necessary".
The funding would directly target the issues behind that, she said.
"The funding will not only help us improve our performance, it is also helping us deliver vital local infrastructure made possible through the Government's investment in capital costs."
- Additional reporting Samantha Motion