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Unstable . . . A tractor and trailer at the bottom of the Tamar St landfill after a bank gave way. PHOTO: WAITAKI DISTRICT ARCHIVE

After more than 50 years, the Oamaru landfill in Tamar St will close at the end of this month.

A new transfer station, in Industrial Pl, is being built by Waste Management, which recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Waitaki District Council and the Waitaki Resource Recovery Trust to ensure a range of quality, accessible waste management and minimisation services are available once the landfill closes.

The decision to build the transfer station was made by the council more than two years ago, when it became clear to council staff developing a new landfill would be unaffordable for ratepayers.

Refuse and recyclable items will be dropped at the new transfer station and the recyclable material will be taken to the Waitaki Resource Recovery Trust site in Chelmer St to be processed. The remaining waste will be trucked to landfills elsewhere in Otago.

While the history of the Oamaru landfill is not particularly well documented, the Waitaki District Archive is able to provide some information on how it came to be operated the way it is today.

Before 1962, the landfill was not controlled.

On June 27, 1961, the Oamaru Mail reported a borough council decision to close the dump at Redcastle and make it mandatory for all citizens to take rubbish to the composting plant at south Oamaru (the landfill site) “did not meet with the approval of all councillors”.

It was decided to agree to the recommendation to close Redcastle dump and ask the borough council’s work committee to find a suitable dump “handy to the north end which would be open to all types of rubbish”.

Cr Freeman said he was “far from happy” with a proposal that people should “have to go halfway to Kakanui with their garden rubbish” and that it was “too much to expect residents of the North End to work in their gardens and then travel such a distance to dispose of their rubbish”.

Cr Stevenson, a regular visitor to the dump, said he “realised what vast quantities of material were deposited there” and, as a result, “knew that there was a need for another dump” as the quantity of rubbish being dumped was “unlikely to get less”.

W. R. Laney, Waitaki’s Mayor at the time, believed controlled dumping was needed in Oamaru and was quoted as saying only perishable rubbish would have to be taken to the composting plant.

The recommendation and amendment at that meeting were carried.

Nine months later, on March 27, 1962, the Oamaru Borough Council approved a scheme for a controlled dump in Tamar St.

It was proposed that the area be operated as a controlled tip, open six days a week, and that a “charge should be made for each load deposited in the dump”.

“The council envisages that the existing flat area fronting Tamar St should be topsoiled and sown in grass and surrounded by a fence and created as a children’s play area,” the MailĀ reported.

“Access to the rear portion is to be by a one lane road properly gravelled with the right of entry controlled by the use of the caretaker’s hut. It is further proposed that a small area be fenced by heavy mesh to allow for the burning of paper daily and other combustible material.”

The caretaker at the site was “prepared to supervise the tipping at the rate of week plus the right of salvage”.

Dumping fees were set at 3s 6d per large load and 2s 6d for a small trailer-load. “Small sacks of suitable rubbish” could be dumped free.

It was estimated running the dump was 5 pounds a week, which covered the cost of machinery to level deposits that, “which being uncontrolled, is dumped at random over the whole area”.

Cr R. W. Stevenson was quoted as saying the decision to confine dumping to six days a week would “entail difficulties for many people in the borough who liked to go to the dump on Sundays”, to which the town clerk replied every controlled dump in New Zealand was closed on that day.

Fifty-five years later, a Waitaki District Council project to prepare the dump for closing is well under way.

About two years ago, work to cap the landfill started.

Waitaki District Council water services and waste manager Martin Pacey said the capping process involved clay and soil being laid before grass was sown. The layer of clay would ensure any potentially hazardous liquid would not penetrate the top layer of soil.

The former landfill would then be maintained regularly for a “few years” after its closure.

That will be part of a future report on how the council will go about managing the former site. The report must be presented to the Otago Regional Council under its consent requirements.

While the council has consent to operate the landfill until November, it will close at the end of April to coincide with the opening of the Waste Management transfer station in the North End.

As for the future of the dump site, a BMX park is to be constructed on the land.

Last year, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher confirmed the council planned to turn the site into a reserve, which would include the BMX park.

A proposal prepared by economic development group Venture Waitaki in August said the cost for the whole project was $72,000.

Broken down, the site and building the track will cost $27,000, starting gates $20,000, hot mix on corner sections an estimated $10,000 and a car park with access from Selwyn St $15,000.

In October, the council committed up to $15,000 from its landfill rehabilitation budget to build the car park and approved up to $20,000 from RMA funding to go towards the project.

A BMX club was formed late last year to help drive the project.

Dumping site . . . A photograph dating from the early 1960s of land in Tamar St which was bought to expand the Oamaru landfill. The edge of the original dump can be seen on the right. PHOTO: WAITAKI DISTRICT ARCHIVE