NZ Aluminium smelter releases its latest Tiwai Environmental Monitoring report
On Friday 10 November, NZ Aluminium Smelter (NZAS) released its latest extensive environmental monitoring report on the impact of operations in the coastal marine area around Tiwai.
Murihiku Regeneration has been actively engaged with Rio Tinto and NZAS on both its remediation commitments, and the future operation of the Smelter. As a part of this work, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was agreed in 2022 between Murihiku Rūnaka and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and NZAS and Rio Tinto.
As a part of the remediation programme, Rio Tinto and Awarua Rūnaka have been working closely together over the last year to build a shared vision of remediation of the site.
An Advisory Group established under the MoU works to protect both Te Ao Tūroa (natural environment) and mahinga kai activities at or near Awarua/Tiwai peninsula coastal environment is engaged on this important work. Together with technical support from a joint Remediation Working Group, site specific remediation criteria have been co-designed with NZAS and Rio Tinto. A plan for the remediation of the onsite drain network is currently under development
The research, undertaken by global company GHD, has found a limited risk to marine ecology and no increased risk of health effects for people who come into contact with sediment and surface water or consume kai moana (sea food) in the surrounding coastal marine area. The report has confirmed the decision by the remediation working group – made up of representatives of Ngāi Tahu and NZAS - to focus on discharge from the drains as a key environmental impact that needs ongoing management. Both Murihiku Rūnaka and NZAS are working with Environment Southland, who have their own environmental reporting and monitoring programme. It is understood that its next round of reporting is due in the coming weeks.
In his statements on the release of the report, NZAS spokesperson, CEO Chris Blenkiron acknowledged that Tiwai is more than 50 years old, and its practices haven’t always met expectations but they are working hard to improve its environmental record. “In particular I was really pleased that the report found that there was no increased risk of health effects for people consuming kai moana from the surrounding coastal marine area. Food gathering from the ocean is incredibly significant to our Ngāi Tahu partners but also our wider community here in Southland”
Spokesperson for Ngāi Tahu, Jacqui Caine said, “Ngāi Tahu has welcomed the partnership with NZAS on remediating the whenua (land) and coastal environment around Tiwai Point. Protection of mahinga kai activities is of upmost importance to Awarua and Ngāi Tahu more broadly. It is reassuring to know that the kai moana in the harbour is safe to eat and that we can continue this important practice that we have done for several hundred years. We are really pleased with the progress made in developing a partnership with NZAS to remediate the site. The first remediation plan we are co-designing is for the drain network. The GHD report confirms we have focused in the right areas.”
Murihiku Regeneration is currently working with Rio Tinto around the future operation of the site, and believe that along with commitments to an agreed remediation plan, the Smelter should continue to operate in Murihiku-Southland for the benefit of the region. “We want see a future where Rio Tinto makes a long term commitment to ongoing smelter operations, and that other developers, new energy projects, and industries that include green hydrogen production also get established in Southland. We see this as a vital part of our energy transition”, confirms Terry Nicholas, Portfolio Director for Murihiku Regeneration and Upoko of Hokonui Rūnanga.
For a full copy of the report see www.nzas.co.nz/sustainability
Posted: 14 November 2023