A metal recycling business already under investigation for breaching its resource consent was last week caught illegally dumping. Now an Auckland councillor is calling for more compliance officers to be hired to stop it happening again.
A company facing penalties of $600,000 for illegally dumping scrap metal in south Auckland is also being investigated for how it manages stormwater runoff at another site in Onehunga.
Endless Metals was served with two abatement notices by Auckland Council last week for dumping huge amounts of scrap metal at a site in Takanini, after councillor Angela Dalton alerted staff to the issue.
James Hassall, council’s general manager of licensing and regulatory compliance, says his team is also working with Endless Metals to ensure it is meeting its resource consent obligations regarding “the onsite treatment of stormwater” at its Onehunga site.
Dalton, councillor for the Manurewa-Papakura ward, says the incident highlights the need for more investment to be put into compliance so council can come down hard on businesses that are failing to comply across a number of areas.
“The scrap pile in Takanini felt like it appeared overnight and I was messaged by a number of locals about it, so I called council and asked if this is permitted,” she said. “But we are way too light on compliance. We need to be investing more in compliance officers as their staff have been cut.
“One of council’s core roles is to make sure people are complying with their consenting conditions. Everyone should play by the same rules and if they aren’t then they should get whatever is coming to them, whether it’s a fine or a shutdown.”
According to a Companies Office report, the business was put into receivership in 2019 after breaching the terms of its lending agreement with BNZ. Dalton said she’s concerned about how the company’s actions reflect on those who are complying with regulations.
“One bad apple means all other organisations in this industry get tarred with the same brush, and it’s really unfair. So there needs to be consistency in how officers are making sure these businesses are complying with their consents.”
Stuart Kagan, founder and managing director of Endless Metals, told The Spinoff that “Covid disruptions to global shipping” have meant the company hasn’t been able to export material as usual and its “Onehunga site is at capacity”.
But he’s confident the about 2500 metric tonnes pile of scrap metal, which has current market value in excess of $1 million, will soon be removed from the Takanini site.
“As planned, we started clearing the site on Monday and transporting the materials to the port for shipping to an international steel smelting operation for recycling, where it will be transformed into new steel for manufacturing such as coils, sheets, structural beams.”
Kagan did not wish to comment regarding the council’s investigation into issues relating to stormwater runoff, but he did confirm the company ceased to be in receivership in March 2020.
Endless Metals is a member of the NZ Association of Metal Recyclers. Its president Suzanne Billsborough said the industry is worth more than $350 million to the economy each year, with around 600,000 tonnes of recycled metal exported in 2020, and she doesn’t believe the issues facing Endless Metals are being experienced by others.
“Having read what Endless Metals have said, this is a one-off situation. Most scrap yards would be running sound environmental management techniques, they would have proper filters in place [for runoff].
“Generally the industry is in really good shape. Most scrap dealers and metal recyclers I’ve spoken to have said they have been really busy. They haven’t downsized or lost staff and overall our members employ really good environmental management practices.”
She says the global shipping issues have been at play for a couple of years but it’s a challenge the industry is learning to adapt to.
“We export throughout the world. Our metals normally go to places like India, Asia and Australia. The Chinese changed their situation [imposed import restrictions] a year or two ago, so we’ve had plenty of time to adapt to it.
“But this year we’ve also had the Suez Canal blockage, we’ve had ships cancelled because of the issues in the Middle East and due to port congestion in Auckland, we’ve had ships change their routes. Covid has also had an impact, as it’s impacted on the speed at which containers can be unloaded.”
Auckland Council’s Hassall said Endless Metals has until June 10 to comply with the abatement notices, and that the council is in ongoing discussions regarding the runoff issues at the company’s Onehunga site.
Calling it “one of the biggest piles of scrap that’s been dumped without a consent”, he said the council would consider taking further action, including prosecution under the Resource Management Act – carrying a maximum penalty of $600,000 – if the company fails to meet its obligations to remove the scrap metal.
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