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Waitaki waste now travels 320km south to Winton.

And the move towards “regional landfills” was a “very real one”, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said.

Until recently, waste in the Waitaki district had been disposed of 120km south of Oamaru at the Green Island landfill.

At Green Island – despite an estimated 21 years until it reaches capacity – the future of the Dunedin City Council-owned landfill is unclear after its consent runs out in 2023.

And Dunedin city councillors have expressed discomfort with the idea of exporting rubbish generated locally elsewhere.

Mr Kircher said he was aware of the “philosophical debates” around the issue and said he could see both sides.

But when the Oamaru landfill was set to close in 2017 the Waitaki District Council looked for a local option and made a decision based on the costs, moving to a private model.

While a local solution would be “ideal”, well-maintained regional landfills were better environmentally than having the landscape dotted with many smaller ones.

“Every time we’ve looked at it the problem becomes worse. The environmental standards that are required are high. The actual volume of waste we have is relatively low.

” And if you take the cost of establishing a landfill and running it on a day-to-day basis – and divide it by the amount of rubbish that we actually have in a year – it just doesn’t work out. The cost of rubbish would be extremely high. It is cheaper, unfortunately, to cart it to an established landfill,” Mr Kircher said.

He remained hopeful new technologies would eventually provide solutions.

Meanwhile, in 2016, prior to the closure of the Oamaru landfill, the council’s assets committee discussed “Easing the Impact of Oamaru landfill Closure”, a report that focused on the potential costs to ratepayers and of a public awareness campaign of the impending closure.

The report, released under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, did not raise the issue of disposing of local waste locally.

However, it referred to an earlier set of goals that included, creating “a ‘feel good’ feeling among the public” and to “position council such that any future complaint can be countered by knowledge that ‘council did its very best to ease the impact’ prior to landfill closure”.

Waste Management customer and sustainability general manager Marsha Cadman confirmed waste from its refuse transfer station in Oamaru, operational since 2017, is currently taken to Southland.

“From time-to-time Waste Management assesses the available and viable disposal options across the regions we operate in, and adjusts our disposal accordingly,” she said.