Taxpayers asked to help pay for Southland toxic waste clean-up

Morning Talk 07/03/2018

An estimated 25,000 tonnes of toxic waste from the Tiwai aluminium smelter in Bluff has been abandoned, causing a giant health and financial disaster.

Nearby residents say they can smell the toxic waste, and it's giving them serious health problems.

The waste is no longer owned by the smelter - as Taha International was contracted to deal with the waste. However the company went into liquidation a year ago, leaving a giant problem behind.

Otago Regional Councillor Michael Laws says the toxic waste is sitting on several sites throughout Southland and causing problems for the landowners.

Speaking to Mark Sainsbury on RadioLIVE this morning, Mr Laws said while the owners of the smelter Rio Tinto don't have a legal obligation to remove the waste, they do have a moral obligation to help.

It's the Government that owns all that toxic waste.

“As of today, we are all shareholders in 25,000 tonnes of toxic waste in Southland,” he told RadioLIVE. 

“Here’s the irony of it all,” said Mr Laws “It’s the Government that owns all that toxic waste.”

The Government says it will only partially pay for the cost of cleaning up the waste. It's estimated to cost around $4 million to ship the waste offshore.

The rest of the cost will have to be dealt with by Southland landowners.

“No one likes to hold Rio Tinto to account too much in this country and there’s a reason for that, they create a lot of jobs” Michael Laws added. 

Listen to the full interview with Michael Laws above.

Morning Talk with Mark Sainsbury, 9am - 12pm Weekdays and streaming live on 'rova' channel 9 - available on Android and iPhone.

Parts of this story were originally published on Newshub.