Run of the mill

Published: Friday 31 May 1996

Run of the mill

The Tarawera river in New Zealand was once an abundant source of food for the locals and the region's wildlife, but today, it is known as the black drain, thanks to the tonnes of toxic effluents being pumped into it. The chief culprit is the Tasman Pulp and Paper Mill at Kawerau, the largest producer of toxic chlorine in New Zealand. In addition, waste from the smaller Caxton paper mill, Kawerau's raw sewage and heavy metals from a geothermal plant also find their way into the river. But their days of polluting the river may be numbered as Greenpeace, New Zealand, plans a mass campaign against the polluters this year.

According to Greenpeace, it was the 1955 Special Act of Parliament, which gave the mills the 'licence to pollute'. Since the Act has now expired, Tasman and Caxton must both apply afresh for permission to release effluents into the river under the Resource Management Act. The act which allows environmental groups to intervene, involves the formulation of a new management plan. The plan would provide consent to the use of a certain amount of resources and the emission of wastes, by the firms concerned. Greenpeace has already made a submission to the Bay of Plenty Regional Council which is developing a new plan for the river. According to the plan (which has not yet been finalised), the firms would have to achieve a target of zero discharge into the river by the year 2000 by replacing chlorine with safer and totally alternatives. These substitutes are currently in use in both Europe and North America.

At the national level, Greenpeace shall press the government to expedite phasing out the chlorine-containing chemicals. At the local level, activists like Kay Smith are rallying other environmental groups and citizens, to pressurise the mill and the council through letters, pamphlets and filing petetions so that the river could be restored to its original pristine form.

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