Lab testing being done on Owaka Pit MDF

CONTENTIOUS: The owners of the controversial Owaka Pit are now testing the medium density fibre to see if it can be reused.

The medium density fibre from the controversial Owaka Pit is now being tested to see if it can be reused after the site was found to be operating illegally.

It comes after the city council threatened Environment Court action in April.

City council regulatory compliance principal adviser Claire Le Grice said Owaka Holdings Ltd was investigating options to try and achieve compliance at the Hornby site.

“These investigations include a series of laboratory tests relating to the mixing and compaction of the MDF material.”

She said the city council was “continuing to engage” with Owaka Holdings in relation to the investigations.

“As this is an ongoing enforcement matter, no further comment will be made at this time.”

In April, The Star reported a city council investigation, which took more than a year, found the stockpiles of MDF at the Owaka Rd site were not permitted by the District Plan and not authorised by a resource consent. MDF is an engineered wood product made by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals.

Owaka Holdings had until the end of April to come up with alternate proposals to achieve compliance or the city council would make an application with the Environment Court to seek enforcement orders to address the issue. That prompted the testing.

The pit was used as a recycling tip. In 2013, the MDF there spontaneously caught alight spreading thick smoke and taking weeks to contain. The city council issued Owaka Holdings an abatement notice in April 2015, which said all MDF had to be removed by April 2016.

The city council did not reimpose it after it lapsed because it started the compliance investigation.

Owaka Holdings director Alan Edge said the testing started about a month ago. He did not know how long it would take.

“It’s just looking at options.”

He said the material was left on the site by the previous owners before Owaka Holdings took over about 10 years ago.

Mr Edge said he wanted it gone and had spent a lot of money removing it so far.

“I inherited it; I didn’t put it there.”

Halswell-Hornby-Riccarton Community Board chairman Mike Mora said he did not know why the material needed to be tested.

Mr Mora said the MDF could likely only be reused as hog fuel. But Cape Foulwind cement
works in Westport, where it could have been used, closed in 2016, he said.

“There’s another factory in Rangiora that could burn some of that, but it couldn’t handle that volume.”

Mr Mora has requested a meeting with city council head of regulatory compliance Tracey Weston to discuss the issue.

“I’m very, very frustrated about the time it’s taken to get a resolution.”

The city council has previously said about 787.91 tonne of MDF has been removed from the site.