Where is the Levin Landfill?

  • The landfill is in the Horowhenua District, four kilometers west of Levin; the site is set in coastal sand dunes inland from Hōkio Beach. The Hōkio stream, the single outlet from the already polluted, Lake Horowhenua, runs alongside it, 100m to the landfill's northern boundary. The stream flows west to the sea 2.5km away.
  • The Ngātokowaru marae (Ngāti Pareraukawa, Ngāti Raukawa) is 500m northeast of the landfill. The Kawiu marae (Muaūpoko) is on the northern shore of Lake Horowhenua to the east. Muaūpoko have land holdings in the Hōkio village.

How big is it?

  • The landfill site covers 74ha.

A brief history of the landfill

  • In the 1950s a small rubbish dump was developed in the area next to the current landfill. It was one of many dumps in the district, each servicing a nearby town. In the late 1970’s - a dump was opened on the site. By 1996 all other small dumps in the Horowhenua were closed and Hōkio was retained as the only landfill for the district.
  • When this ‘old landfill’ began to reach its capacity, the Horowhenua District Council (HDC) lodged an application for resource consents for a new landfill on the same site (September 1994). By 2004 the old landfill had exceeded its original intended capacity; it was closed but not satisfactorily capped. The new lined landfill was opened.
  • In 1997, the Manawatū Regional Council (now known as Horizons Regional Council (HRC), began hearings on consent applications. A principal objection was the risk of leachate contaminating the Hōkio Stream. Ultimately, four of the five resource consents were granted for 35 years. The decision was appealed and the Parliamentary Commissioner (PCE) became involved with subsequent mediation.
  • In May 2000, the Environment Court established the Neighbourhood Liaison Group (NLG) and further mediation took place before the new Landfill opened in 2004.
  • By 2007, Dr Jan Wright, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, began a second round of investigations (tabled in Parliament in 2008), following community complaints about non-compliance at the landfill.
  • In December 2007, the Kāpiti Coast District Council (KCDC) voted 6-5 to send their waste to Hōkio.
  • Note: The old dump was not lined and was never properly capped when it closed in 2004. It was only after community groups made a huge fuss, during the 2009 review that HDC agreed to add a proper water-proof capping. This was not done until 2010-11.
  • From 2004-2011 the old dump surface often slumped and cracked with pools of water forming on its surface. This allowed water to percolate down through the rubbish creating larger volumes of leachate which is still emerging from the base of the old dump into the Tatana Drain. This environmental disaster was a result of total incompetence and negligence by HDC who refused to act on the matter for several years.

Who owns, manages is responsible for the landfill?

  • HDC holds the consents for the operation of the landfill and has contracted Midwest Disposals Limited to operate it. Midwest Disposals are responsible for running the site and are expected to adhere to the conditions set out in the resource consents.
  • HDC owns the site and is responsible for managing the contract with Midwest Disposals. They are also responsible for governance and management of finances on the contract.
  • Horizons Regional Council (HRC) is responsible for monitoring the conditions of the resource consents and holding the HDC accountable for fulfilling them.

What waste is currently being disposed of at the site?

  • Until recently waste from Kāpiti and Horowhenua districts was being landfilled at the site. We understand it is now going to the Porirua and Bonnie Glen landfills because the current site is full.

Why is the landfill so controversial?

  • From the ‘get go’ the site was an entirely unsuitable. It is set in porous sand country which makes it difficult to control and contain leachates. It is sited on an environmentally sensitive and important sand dune system in an area with shallow ground water, close to the Hōkio stream, close the to the foreshore and ocean and upstream from a community.
  • It is badly managed and has been non-compliant (in breach of its RMA consent conditions) for many years.
  • This has led to numerous complaints about odour and leachates contaminating groundwater and polluting local streams and the beach. Community opposition to the landfill has been disrespected for decades. They have not been properly informed or consulted on key issues relating to the landfill.
  • There’s no transparency about the cost of running the landfill with substantial evidence to suggest it’s heavily in debt. This begs questions about why HDC is fighting so hard to keep it open.
  • Frequently, information is fudged in the name of commercial sensitivity.

List some examples of poor management?

  • Lack of a weigh bridge and formal log book. This has led to a lack of data about how much waste is going into the landfill, where it comes from and what it is.
  • Public observation and drone surveillance shows that the site is being filled up very quickly at the moment.
  • The landfill recently received 6000, tonnes of contaminated soil from a site in the Wairarapa. This material was trucked past two other closer landfills before landing at Hōkio.

What has the community done to challenge authorities and have the site properly managed or closed?

  • Some members of the community have been fighting this issue for decades.
  • The landfill has been subject to five reviews in 14 years since it was opened in its current form in 2004. These include: an ’in-house’ review undertaken by Horizons Regional Council (2005-2007), a review by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) in 2008 which included a comprehensive technical and environmental investigation by Tonkin & Taylor (landfill engineers); a publicly notified review by Horizons in 2009-2010; an updated report by the PCE in 2011 and another publicly notified review in 2015-16.
  • In 2018 a local resident began an online petition to close the landfill – it garnered 1,756 signatures. A new petition is currently being developed.
  • Hailed as a “landmark agreement” the Horowhenua District Council, signed up to the Hōkio Landfill Agreement in 2019. It committed the Council to work with an alliance of community groups to close the landfill early or by April 2022. It also included agreement to manage it within the consents required. The agreement was led and signed by Hōkio Environment and Kaitiaki Alliance (HEKA) a sub-group of the Horowhenua District Residents and Ratepayers Association Incorporated (HDDRAI). Other signatories were: Ngāti Pareraukawa, Peter Everton (a local farmer bordering the landfill), and HDC (signed by David Clapperton, CEO).

What impact has the facility had on Hōkio environment?

  • Over the past 70 years, the landfill has degraded the local environment at many levels. Consistent efforts to have it managed, monitored or closed have been unfruitful, costly, time-consuming, heart-breaking and demoralising - particularly for tangata whenua and local groups who have been battling this issue for decades.
    • The local waterways are significantly polluted - this is killing the stream, ocean and local aquatic life. Traditional food taken from the local stream is no longer available to the local hapu. Significant odour issues have been smelt and reported since 2004.

What are the issues the community wants sorted?

  • First and foremost, the landfill should operate within consents and be compliant. This has not been the case, the local community now wants to see it closed so that the ongoing environmental and social damage is stopped, and remediation can started immediately.
  • A key issue is what will happen with the site in the next 5, 10, 20 and 50 years. Horowhenua residents and the Council are aware of the need to clean up the site to ensure it does not continue to discharge contaminants into ground water, pollute drinking water, and continue to pollute the stream and coastline. The cost of the clean-up is extensive and estimated to be tens of millions of dollars.

How much leachate is coming off the site and why is this happening?

  • In evidence given to the Environment Court in 2018 Pareraukawa representative David Moore said: “The difference between an old lined dump and a more recent (lined) dump is only 50-80 years. We know that a plume of underground leachate pollutants has been steadily moving through the groundwater from the landfill property towards the Hōkio stream." (See points 19-24 in David Moore’s paper in documents)

What is leachate and where does it come from?

  • Leachate is a cocktail of toxic chemical substances which leak from the bottom of landfill dumps. It can contain many toxic, poisonous and dangerous materials which are damaging to the environment and especially water resources and fish-life. It typically contains ammonia, which is highly toxic to fish-life, heavy metal compounds e.g.: lead, copper, and mercury, poisons such as arsenic and other dangerous substances, like organophosphates and similar highly dangerous compounds.
  • The amount of leachate increases if old rubbish sites are not sealed at the top to prevent rainwater percolating down. This is exactly what was allowed to happen when the ‘old unlined dump’ was closed in 2004.

What needs to happen to close the site?

  • Elected Councillors of the Horowhenua District Council need to be courageously and vote to close this environmentally and socially unacceptable landfill. The Council has long been on ‘the wrong side of history’ on this issue. Now is the time for it to listen to its community and redeem itself.