Team to manage and monitor NZ earthquake waste established

Tuesday, 12 June, 2012

Local agencies in New Zealand have combined to make sure the current disposal of earthquake waste is efficiently managed and monitored to ensure protection of the natural environment in both the short and longer term.

Environment Canterbury, Christchurch City Council, CERA and the Selwyn and Waimakariri district councils have joined forces to monitor the movement and disposal of earthquake waste which could prevent the rebuild of the city and restrict future land use.

“We want to get ahead of the issues created by the huge amounts of waste being generated at present and avoid any legacy issues around contaminated land which, further down the track, could cause problems,” says Brett Aldridge, Environment Canterbury Manager for Monitoring and Compliance.

“Our joint agency approach to date has already realised benefits for all agencies in terms of understanding our overlapping regulatory responsibilities, sharing real-time information and acting together in responding to the various waste issues not just in Christchurch but the wider Canterbury area,” says Anne Columbus, Christchurch City Council Acting Unit Manager for Investigations and Compliance.

Over the past 14 months senior staff from the agencies have been overseeing the management of earthquake disposal, with monitoring work being carried out by Christchurch City Council and Environment Canterbury staff. Now funding has been secured to establish a dedicated team of five people, the Waste and Environmental Management Team, to proactively manage compliance related to earthquake waste and contaminated land for a two-year period.

“Waste from the recovery is not just confined to Christchurch,” says Aldridge. “As a result, the team will operate wherever waste-handling facilities are set up in the Greater Christchurch area. They will work with each council’s compliance and technical staff to ensure all the councils are regularly informed about waste issues and how they are being handled.

“Currently there are at least 47 sites handling earthquake waste in Christchurch which presents significant challenges. Having people on the ground means they can work with the demolition and construction companies, insurance project management offices and other agencies.

“They will be proactive and pragmatic and use a range of methods to ensure compliance with local and regional requirements. They should also help us identify any future issues in waste and contaminated land as they arise.’’

Before the earthquakes, the waste industry in Christchurch was designed to handle 225,000 tonnes of city waste and 600,000 tonnes of contaminated waste each year. It is estimated that the earthquake will produce around 8.75 million tonnes of contaminated waste.

The first three members of the Waste and Environmental Management Team began work on 11 June, working from the CERA office at Marian College.

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