Auckland mayor says no plan to send rubbish to Kaipara plant

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown is pouring cold water on rumors his council’s rubbish is headed north to a proposed $730 million waste-to-energy plant in Kaipara.

It comes as an opponent of the Kaipara waste-to-energy plant questions Kaipara mayor Craig Jepson’s indications that Auckland rubbish will feed the controversial $730 million Northland-based industrial facility, along with a much smaller amount from the North.

Stop the Kaipara Waste Incinerator member and Kaipara ratepayer Jane Reed, who has experience in waste management, said Auckland’s rubbish was not in line to head north.

Under the proposal, Auckland’s rubbish would make up around 95% of the waste-to-energy plant’s fuel and would be essential to the plant’s existence. The rest would come from Northland.

A response to Auckland Council’s Official Information Act request to Reed formally confirmed that Brown had discussed the waste-to-energy plant proposal with Jepson.

But he said Auckland Council had not entered into any negotiations with Kaipara District Council or the plant’s proponents, nor was there any timetable for shipping Auckland’s rubbish to Kaipara.

Local Democracy Reporting Northland asked Mayor Brown his position on sending his city’s garbage to the Kaipara plant.

The mayor’s spokesman said Brown visited Jepson on other business and that the plant and its technology were discussed as a matter of interest, but that no plans or decisions emerged from the meeting.

It was not an Auckland Council project and Brown had not sent any Auckland rubbish to the Kaipara waste-to-energy plant, the spokesperson said.

Jepson said protecting Auckland’s waste was essential to building the Kaipara plant.

Kaipara Mayor Craig Jepson has been pushing for a waste-to-energy plant in New Zealand for more than three decades.

He said sourcing waste fuel for the Kaipara waste-to-energy plant would be part of the due diligence required for the plant’s construction.

An Auckland Council spokesperson said the council was aware of KDC’s desire to have a waste-to-energy plant in Northland. However, he did not lead the project or have any role in its development.

“In principle, Auckland is interested in new waste minimization technology that can minimize waste sent to landfill,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the majority of Auckland’s waste sent to landfill was commercial and collected and processed by private waste companies.

KDC is working with majority foreign-owned South Island Resource Recovery Limited (SIRRL) on its potential WtE plant for Kaipara. The same company is pushing to build a WtE plant near Waimate, south of Canterbury. The decision in this regard corresponds to the Environmental Court.

An artist's impression of the South Canterbury waste-to-energy plant that the company linked to Kaipara's proposed equivalent wants to build.

South Island Resource Recovery Limited came before Auckland Council last year, the spokesperson said.

“South Island Resource Recovery Limited launched its Waimate concept in Auckland late last year. “This was a learning and reporting exercise, but that has been the extent of our involvement to date,” the Auckland spokesperson said.

Jepson said he was not concerned about Auckland Council’s current position.

“I think it’s still early. “They won’t have a proper answer until there is an application (to build the waste-to-energy plant) from a private entity,” Jepson said.

Auckland Council’s waste policy was extended until 2028 and it would take three years to build the plant in Kaipara, he said.

Jepson said he had not had discussions with the private waste companies that manage Northland and Auckland’s rubbish removal.

Reed’s response on the Official Information Act said Auckland Council’s new draft waste minimization plan included that energy production from waste took many forms “and that some proposals such as landfill gas capture and energy from anaerobic digestion of food scraps may be appropriate.

However, other more complex proposals, such as the Kaipara plant proposal, would have impacts that would need to be assessed against Auckland’s waste minimization targets. Among them was that Auckland would have zero waste by 2040.

The mayors of Far North and Whangārei district councils were also lukewarm recently on rubbish going to the Kaipara waste-to-energy plant.