$16.2 million Tui Mine clean up gets underway

  • Nick Smith

Environment Minister Nick Smith today launched the clean up of New Zealand’s most contaminated site at Tui Mine with the Green Party and announced a new national environmental standard for better managing contaminated sites.

“Tui Mine poses real safety and environmental risks for the Te Aroha Community. The $15.2 million contribution from the Government, in tight financial times, is the largest ever for a clean up. It shows the Government’s commitment to improving management of the environment,” Dr Smith said.

“Geotechnical reports show that a modest earthquake or severe storm could put lives at risk and cause damage of up to $168 million from the tailings dam failing.

The clean up work involves stabilising the dam by pumping and mixing cement and lime to depths of five metres with a modified excavator to strengthen the 160,000 tonnes of soil and lock in the heavy metal contaminants.”

The work to clean up the site is also being funded by a contribution of $800,000 from Waikato Regional Council and $200,000 from the Matamata-Piako District Council.

“The clean up of Tui Mine is part of the memorandum of understanding between the Government and the Green Party. We share a common ambition to reduce the risks and harm from contaminated waste and this clean up is one of the positive outcomes,” Dr Smith said.

“I’m also pleased to announce a new national environmental standard to protect human health, while enabling development on contaminated land.

“Only 14 of 73 district plans have rules to manage problems of contaminated land. This isn’t good enough. The Government has approved this national environmental standard to provide greater certainty on which sites pose a health risk and need containment or clean up.”

Contamination of land can come from many sources such as mining or past use of industrial or agricultural chemicals.

“If land is found to be contaminated, steps must be taken to cleanse the soil or contain the contamination, to make it safe for human use prior to development,” Dr Smith said.

The new national environmental standard applies to developments – including proposed subdivisions, changes of land use, and major earthworks – on land that has been used for certain hazardous activities or industries.

“This initiative is part of the Government's broader programme of providing stronger national direction on the Resource Management Act. It is far more efficient to have one nationwide standard for managing contaminated sites rather than requiring each district and city council to develop their own,” Dr Smith said.

The new National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health will take effect from 1 January 2012.