Residents of a small Northland settlement are angry a resource consent for a new boiler room and chimney stack they say will exacerbate existing health problems has been granted without their input.
The Northland Regional Council has granted consent to Affco freezing works in Moerewa to shift its existing boiler about 280 metres northeast of the current location, raising the ire of those in the nearby Taumatamakuku settlement.
But Affco says its new boiler would make things better for the community.
Residents live 500m east of the freezing works and the new, wood-pellet boiler, with a much lower chimney stack, would be closer to them.
The consent was non-notified and NRC said adverse effects of the proposed change to conditions on the environment would be no more than minor.
But Roddy Pihema, spokesman for the residents, said the closeness of the new boiler and the reduction of the chimney's height from 42m to 20m meant worsening of respiratory problems faced by his people. His 9-month-old child suffers from a lung disease.
"We live in a place surrounded by hills and the smoke from chimneys on cold days doesn't go anywhere. Even wood-pellet boilers won't make a difference because the particles are invisible," Pihema said.
"It's not about taking Affco out but finding a solution so that our kids can play outside and not worry about the air quality. Even though legally they didn't have to seek feedback on the consent, morally they were obliged to talk to us," he said.
Northland Māori leader Rihari Dargaville said Affco and NRC must go through a consultation process for justice to be done.
Affco chief executive Nigel Stevens said from an environmental and aesthetic perspective, the new boiler would be a significant improvement for residents.
He said sulphur and ash emission levels would be significantly reduced by a far more environmentally friendly wood-pellet burning boiler, and overall emissions would be reduced by 50 per cent from current levels.
Additionally the wood pellets would be locally purchased, supporting local business, while also reducing the fuel required for transporting fuel to the site, he said.
The chimney for the new boiler will be less than half the height of the existing structure and half the diameter.
Stevens said Affco's aim was always to support and enhance the communities which its plants were based in.
"In the case of Moerewa, we inject significant wages into the local economy on an ongoing basis, we have made recent food donations to local food banks to assist with Covid-related needs, and the new boiler reflects our commitment to improving environmental outcomes for the community.
"We are always happy to engage with the community, and we run annual community liaison meetings for this purpose, although no local residents have attended the last three meetings we have run at Moerewa."