REL waste bale storage - information for the community

This page aims to provide updates for the community on Renew Energy Limited's (REL's) consent application to store bales at an industrial site in Belfast. It also deals with the unauthorised storage of bales, also by REL, in Spencerville.

You can view the consent application here: CRC203148 to CRC203152.

Latest updates

Update: 22 June 2020~~
REL has notified us that it wishes to withdraw its consent application for waste stockpiling at the Belfast site.
We are now processing that withdrawal request.To reiterate, we will continue to monitor the Spencerville site and the method of removal to ensure no adverse effects are generated or remain.
Update: 19 June 2020
We have received confirmation that REL’s application to the court to vary the current stay of abatement has been granted, which will allow REL to remove all 4,000 waste bales from the Spencerville site to a consented landfill.Removal of the bales must take place by 30 September 2020.The court set the following conditions:
  • REL is to advise Environment Canterbury before it starts to move the bales.
  • The bales will be sorted and removed to either Kate Valley Landfill or a Class B landfill.
  • REL is to file a report to the court on how many bales are removed on the last working day of the month.
Environment Canterbury will continue to monitor the Spencerville site and the method of removal to ensure no adverse effects are generated or remain.The application for consent to store up to 40,000 bales at a Belfast site is on hold and we are awaiting advice from REL whether they wish to proceed with the application or withdraw it. Regardless, the bales from Spencerville will not be going there.We hope this provides some comfort to affected communities on two fronts – one, that the bales will soon be removed from Spencerville, and two, they will not be moved to Belfast.
Update: 14 May 2020
Environment Canterbury officers conducted a site inspection of the bales on 13 May 2020. The inspection was conducted following our COVID-19 Health and Safety procedures.
We noted some minor evidence of slumping of the bales. Some bales have been patched, while some still require patching.
There was a mild odour on site, but this was not present beyond the perimeter fence. There were no obvious signs of leaching. However, the only way to fully test for leaching would be to install groundwater bores, which is recommended. Our officers will conduct another inspection on 27 May 2020.
Update: 5 May 2020
Environment Canterbury officers conducted a site inspection of the bales on 1 May 2020. The inspection was conducted following our COVID-19 Health and Safety procedures. We noted no further degradation or slumping of the bales, although some bales had minor tears that will need patching. There was a mild odour on site but this was not present beyond the perimeter fence. One of the four vermin bait stations requires refilling.
There were no obvious signs of leaching. However, the only way to fully test for leaching would be to install groundwater bores.
Our officers will conduct another inspection on 15 May 2020.
Update: 21 April 2020
Inspections by REL completed on 24 March, 7 April and 14 April showed no evidence of leaching, odour issues or vermin.
We are also working with REL to allow one of our officers to access the site this week to conduct our own inspection, following the government's COVID-19 guidelines.
Update: 9 April 2020
Due to the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown, REL has requested an extension of time to respond to the request for further information, citing the availability and delivery of expert advice over the coming weeks. While a delay is not ideal, this is a reasonable request that staff have no reason to decline, with further information to be provided by the end of May 2020. If information is then complete, we will continue to process the application with the next likely step being a recommendation on notification.
We will continue to require REL to do regular inspections of the Spencerville site to ensure no environmental effects are occurring from the continued storage of waste. Council officers will make regular (bi-weekly) inspections of the Spencerville site. Council officers will also conduct inspections of the Belfast site to ensure no waste is transferred without authorisation. All compliance inspection work will be completed within the Government’s guidance on regulatory actions during Level 4.
Update: 23 March 2020
An inspection of the Spencerville site took place on Monday. No issues were identified.
Update: 13 March 2020
REL requested, and was granted, a four-week extension to the request for further information under s92. Normally, 15 working days is the standard response timeframe to a s92 request.
However, if an applicant agrees to provide the requested information at a later date in order to provide a complete response, then the consent authority can set a reasonable timeframe within which the information is to be provided.

In this case, the s92 request posed several questions to REL that related to, among other things: consideration of sealing the site; details on how REL proposes to manage the site; and the effects on local water and air quality.

On this basis, an extension of four weeks was considered reasonable, while also taking into consideration our other RMA responsibilities, including to avoid unreasonable delay.

Update: 12 March 2020
Renew Energy Ltd (REL) and ERP Group Ltd applied to the court for a “stay” (ie, a temporary suspension or halting of a legal process/procedure) of an abatement notice served on them by Environment Canterbury in relation to removal of bales of municipal waste stored at 25 Spencerville Road, Christchurch by 28 February 2020.

The applicants sought an extension of time to continue storing the bales on the original site under conditions imposed by an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) that was agreed to by Environment Canterbury.We chose not to oppose the stay for the following reasons:
  • In our assessment, the legal test for a stay would likely be met – so to pursue it in court would be to needlessly spend ratepayer money on a legal proceeding that was unlikely to succeed.
  • The applicant showed to the court via BECA that the effects of the bales staying where they are less than minor.
  • The applicant has an agreed EMP in place, which includes agreeing to comply with all monitoring conditions of the abatement notice (eg, reporting once a week on the data gathered by both camera and site inspections).
  • Additional conditions were imposed by the court requiring REL to report to Environment Canterbury every Friday on consent progress.
The court was satisfied that the legal test to grant a stay was met – namely, that the effects on the environment were able to be managed and the conditions attached to the stay were clear, certain and enforceable.If the applicants fail to meet these conditions, or if they fail to adhere to the EMP, we will bring the matter back to the court.

Frequently asked questions

Consent Application and Hearing Process
The RMA is New Zealand’s main piece of national legislation that sets out how we should manage our environment and natural resources (eg, air, soil, fresh water and coastal marine areas).

It is based on the principle of sustainable management, which involves considering the effects of activities on the environment now and in the future when making resource management decisions.

We are legally obliged to follow the law as determined by the RMA when making their consent decisions.

We understand that there is legitimate public interest in these processes, and we want to provide some clarity on what they are, and the sorts of constraints and powers that we have under the RMA.

To help understand the process, we have provided answers below to some of the most frequently asked questions.

Assessing the Application
Q1. What happens when an application for an activity requiring consent is received?

First, there has to be sufficient information within the application for it to be considered. Any person can apply for any activity that is not prohibited under a rule in a plan – therefore, we are legally obliged to process every application that we receive.

If there is sufficient information, and the application is formally accepted, it will then be considered against the statutory tests provided within the RMA, relating to the effects on the environment from the proposed activity and the degree of those effects.

We do this by auditing the information provided in the application, using technical experts and the planning framework as guidance. For example, extracting gravel from a river has an effect on the environment, but a rule in the plan might say that removing any gravel up to a certain amount is acceptable. Therefore, if we received an application to take an amount less than the amount specified in the plan, we would use the plan framework as guidance to determine whether the effect is more than minor in accordance with the RMA. In this case, we would consider the effects of the proposed activity to be less than minor.

Once we have audited the application and determined the environmental effects and the degree, we then need to decide the appropriate type of notification for the application.

Q2. What if more information is required to understand the application?

Once an application is formally accepted, further information about the application may be requested from an applicant. This information may be required to clarify what the applicant is proposing or to better understand the effects that could occur from the activity needing consent.

A request to an applicant for further information from us must be in writing and state the reasons for requesting the information. Further information can be requested any time before or after the application is notified and before the start of a hearing.

Within 15 working days after receiving a request for further information, an applicant can provide this information or propose a timeframe for providing this information. The applicant also has the right to refuse to provide this information.

Q3. Affected parties vs interested parties – what’s the difference?

Affected

An “affected person” (which is a term defined in the RMA) is someone on whom the effects of the proposed activity will be minor or more than minor. Effects on a person (eg, neighbour) may be more than minor but overall the environmental effects of the activity may still be minor. If the person has given written approval, they have waived their rights as an affected person in the consent process.

Interested

An interested person or party may be a group or body that has a general interest in an application but is not deemed to be ‘affected’ under the RMA. We have a list of interested parties that are sent an email advising them of specific applications relevant to their particular interest, a courtesy we undertake to ensure those parties are made aware of relevant applications.

An interested party may then send a comment to us, which we use during application processing to determine whether they are an affected person, which gives them certain rights under the RMA.

An interested person or party (like anyone else) is then entitled to make a submission if the application has been publicly notified.

Public Notification
Q1. What happens when an applicant requests public notification?

An application will be publicly notified if adverse effects on the environment are more than minor. An applicant can also request that an application be publicly notified.

Anyone is able to submit on a publicly notified application.

The RMA provides a timeline to assess, notify, prepare and receive submissions and to hold a hearing. This timeline may be extended by the Council and applicant in certain circumstances.

Q2. What happens when an application is received and notified by both a Regional Council and a District Council?

When applications for an activity are made to both a regional and district council, and both councils decide to publicly notify the application, the councils can choose to align the processes for notification, receiving submissions and holding a hearing.

This means that the Councils will jointly advertise the application at the same time in local newspapers and on the Councils’ websites and a joint hearing will be held. Submissions can be made to both applications.

Making a Submission

Q1. Who can make a submission?

Once an application is publicly notified any person, group or organisation can make a submission.

If others feel the same way about the application, they can consider making a joint submission (e.g. forming a community group and appointing a spokesperson). The spokesperson or contact person should be clearly identified in the submission.

Any member of an organisation or group that makes a submission can still make a submission in their own name.

Q2: How do I to make a submission?

Applications will be notified by  Environment Canterbury. There will be one submission form, and submitters will be able to tick which consents they want the submission to apply to. 

Submissions can be made to both applications in the following ways:

1. Online on the Environment Canterbury website. The online form will be available once the application is formally notified.

2. Use the paper submission form – a copy will be available to download from the website.

3. Write your own submission. The submission must include your name, postal address, telephone number and email address; whether you support or oppose, or are neutral to the application; whether you wish to speak to your submission at a hearing; the application numbers you are submitting on; and, your submission statement with reasons and what decision you would like to be made.

Q3: Where do I send my submission?

If the online submission form is used, it will be submitted automatically via the website. Once the submission is submitted, an automated reply will be received in your email box. A copy will automatically be sent to the applicant.

Or:

Email the submission to Hearings@ecan.govt.nz;

Or:

Post to: Environment Canterbury, PO Box 345, Christchurch 8140.

Q4: Does my submission need to go to the applicant?

Yes, the applicant should receive a full copy (duplicate) of the submission you make sent to the Council. It can be sent electronically or mailed – details of contact details will be made clear when the application is notified.

If the online submission form is used, a copy will be automatically forwarded to the applicant.

Q5: What is the closing date for a submission

Submissions must be received by the closing date stated in the notification advertisement. It is important to get the submission in on time. If it is late, the submission may be invalid and you will not be part of the process.

Q6: Will you acknowledge my submission?

All submitters will receive a formal acknowledgment that their submission has been received once the submission period has closed. Submitters will be advised if a hearing is required at this time.

Q7: What makes a good submission?

Think about what needs to go in the submission, organise it in a logical order and stick to the facts. Remember that the RMA is concerned with managing and protecting the environment.

Make sure that if you want to speak at a hearing, you include everything in the submission you want to speak about.

A submitter doesn’t have to speak at the hearing, and while speaking can help highlight what is said in your submission, it is just as valid if you don’t speak.

Maps, diagrams and professional opinions that support the submission can be included where appropriate.

A “Friend of the Submitter” has been appointed to give advice on the submission process. More details about this will be provided when the application is notified.

The Hearing
Q1: Can I attend a hearing if one is held?

Any hearing is open to the public, including the media.

Q2: Can I speak at a hearing?

A person can only speak at a hearing if they submitted and indicated on the original submission form that they wanted to speak.

Only Hearing Commissioners are allowed to ask questions during a hearing. Cross-examination is not permitted.

The order of speakers during a hearing is: the applicant and applicants’ expert witnesses; submitters who wish to be heard; reporting officers; and the applicant with their right of reply.

Appearing at a Resource consent hearing

http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/rma/everyday-guide-rma-appearing-council-resource-consent-hearing

Q3: What can I talk about at a hearing?

You will only be able to talk about issues that you have included in your written submission.

You can speak at the hearing as an individual submitter. Alternatively, individuals can group together with others that have submitted on similar issues and have a spokesperson(s) speak on behalf of the group.

Q4: Can I bring an expert to a hearing to present evidence?

If you intend to call an expert witness in support of your submission, you must provide that evidence in writing before the hearing begins – this is called ‘pre-circulation of evidence’ and the timetable is set by the Resource Management Act (although the Hearing Panel may give directions that amend the timetable). Copies of this evidence do not need to be provided again at a hearing.

If you are presenting a written presentation, you can provide copies of that on the day. At least 25 copies should be made, including any attachments (eg, photographs) so each member of the Hearing Panel, reporting officers, the applicant and hearings officer each have a copy. If the size or graphic is unable to be copied, it should be loaded onto a pen-drive for the hearings officer to record and share. Any photographs, graphs or other common media format can be placed on a pen-drive to be screened using a data projector.

NB: You do not need to provide copies of your original submission as the Hearing Panel will have read it before the hearing.

Q5: Who hears the application and makes the decision?

Independent hearing commissioners appointed by us will hear the applications and make the decision.

Making a Decision
Q1: What are some of the things that inform the decision to grant or refuse an application?

The Hearing Commissioners will consider the application, the evidence provided, and all submissions for:

  • both positive and adverse effects;
  • relevant planning provisions (e.g. objectives and policies);
  • other relevant matters (e.g, Iwi management plans); and
  • the ways in which the application achieves the overall purpose of the RMA.

Q2: What are “conditions” of a consent?

The purpose of conditions is to avoid, remedy or mitigate the associated effects of the activity that the consent authorises (s108). Among other things, they define the scope of the consent and can also be administrative.

If the decision is to grant a consent application, it will generally be granted with conditions.

Q3: Can I object to the hearing decision or conditions?

Any submitter to the application and the applicant may appeal the decision. Any appeal has to be made directly to the Environment Court, within 15 working days after the hearing decision is released.