Mushroom farm closure stinks of RMA abuse

The head of Meadow Mushrooms says a forced closure of the company’s Waikato sites is the result of abuse of the Resource Management Act’s original intent.

The company was fined $32,000 in the Environment Court for repeatedly producing an objectionable odour. Much of the complaining came from four farmers, two of whom have moved in since the site was upgraded in 1995, and a competing mushroom grower, Meadow Mushrooms chief executive Roger Young says.

The company’s composting site sits 1km outside Morrinsville and its closure means the actual mushroom growing site in the town also has to shut down also as there is no other way to source compost in the region, costing the region 160 jobs and hurting supporting industry.

The company’s choice of spending either $2 milliion upgrading the current site, on top of the $2.3 million spent since 1995, plus huge legal fees and the option of spending several million more moving the site somewhere else is too much of a gamble, especially since consent wouldn’t be guaranteed in either case, he says.

When the Meadow Mushrooms purchased NZ Mushrooms to expand its operations out of Canterbury, the site was a simple concrete pad, completely open-aired and was given resource consent.

After a series of upgrades Mr Young says the company applied to Matamata/Piako district council for renewal, as well as expand its operations, and was granted consent for five years. This is where the problems began.

Mr Young says the weaknesses in the RMA have left loopholes for competitors and residents on a vendetta to shut the company’s operations down.

This included arsenic complaints to the Food Safety Authority, noise complaints about extractor fan hum, complaints about the glare of lights, allegations of waterway poisoning and complaints about vibrations from the site “causing houses to crack 650 metres away.”

All of these allegations were refuted by experts, Mr Young says, so the final approach came down to the much more emotionally charged, and infinitely more subjective issue of stench.

To help with the process, the company flew in an odour control expert from the University of Warwick, Professor Ralph Noble, and David Bayer from the University of Pennsylvania. Both said the site was world class.

“We set up the most intensive odour monitoring around the site New Zealand has ever seen,” he says.

Mr Young believes the RMA gives dairy farmers in the region a free ride, and that his company is fully sustainable in ways that dairy isn’t, as well as producing jobs and GDP for the Morrinsville area.

The company’s compost is made from waste and other materials that would otherwise be thrown out, and the compost itself gets recycled and sold on to farmers, he says.

But much like Foodstuffs’ problems opening its Pak’n Save in Wairau Park Auckland, the competition is able to make highly subjective claims – such as the effect on traffic flows in the area – to stop, or delay industry.

“We don’t want the RMA repealed, its intents and purposes are laudable. It protects New Zealand’s land from being raped and pillaged by unscrupulous private enterprise. But when it’s hijacked by the competition and used for cynical purposes with the help of consultants and specialist lawyers – you have to say we need to look at it again.”

This article is tagged with the following keywords. Find out more about My Tags

Post Comment

11 Comments & Questions

Commenter icon key: Subscriber Verified

I am sorry to hear the mushroom farm has caused effects on its neighbours but am curious how the noise, vibration and air quality issues have been enforced in Morrinsville because we have had similar issues in Waihi associated with mine activities for past 20 years and cant get such action form our authorities...inconsistent application of policy

Reply
Share

if this business has the approriate consents , whicjh i suspect it has then the objectors should be made to pay for the court actions. this would put a stop to the vexatious litigation.

If you dont want to live near a mushroom plant, sell up and move. Imagine if you bought a place near a railway line and then complained about train noise. you would be laughed out of court

Reply
Share

How ridiculous is the RMA and the way it allows pathetic neighbours (the likes of Terry and Janet Gray) to push a large scale business and its employees out of existence while they make their own plans for a cosy home stay.Lets hope the Grays can sleep comfortably now they have achieved their end goal.They then have the audacity to headline in the Waikato Times with the comment "dont blame us"-well im thinking 180 people plus support industry is looking squarely at them.
Lets hope the RMA gets a major overhaul before none of us are able to fart without an abatement notice being issued!

Reply
Share

The Environment Court and Environment Waikato have given Meadow Mushrooms almost two years to take the steps necessary to internalise their odour effects and expert caucus including Meadow Mushrooms consultants have agreed on how this will be achieved. Meadow Mushrooms initially planned to spend $30 million on an expansion to increase production and financial gain for their owner shareholders but are now not prepared to spend less than $2 million to provide job security for their workers.
There has as yet been no decision from the Environment Court just propoganda from Meadow Mushrooms management against many appellants in the local community whose complaints (over 14 years) have been vindicated by the Environment Court. Meadow Mushrooms have been given several solutions, they have chosen to increase their profits by not complying with their reasonable resource consents since 1995 and it is Meadow Mushroom shareholders who have put all the jobs at risk by choosing to walk away now. The company moved to the neighbourhood 13 years ago, not the neighbourhood moved to the company.

The facts are the neighbouring community opposed a significant expansion of compost production because of continuous breaches of resource consents by Meadow Mushrooms. They did not appeal the current set up. This neighbouring community has done their utmost for the workers to keep their jobs and have worked to the best of their ability to give the workers another additional five years employment. Now with threats being made to the closest neighbours it is unlikely they will keep supporting the workers jobs.

Reply
Share

if i were Meadow mushrooms,i would not spend two dollars mitigating effetcs regardless of the Environment court ruling.,remember,while they have been attending to the issues at hand the lovely folk at EW have smacked them with a $35000 fine to keep them on their toes and remind them that being in business with those Nazis watching you is no fun time......the lousy neighbours (and it is only a minority) are hell bent on shutting them down,no question.
What fool is going to increase growth/profit/employment with the RMA and neighbour noose around their neck!
Good luck Meadow Ltd ,i trust you will find a more accommodating neighbourhood to increase your business and provide what has been stable employment in the face of whining arseholes.
The neighbourhood has moved to them you plonker,take a look at the subdivision agreed to by the blind council right on the doorstep of the once rural business...idiotic remark from some clown who no doubt is involved at the coal face of complaining.

Reply
Share

I live in Morrinsville, since I moved in here 10 years ago I have been regularly subjected to the stench of animal scat emanting from the mushroom compost plant. This has been ongoing and whilst there has been some improvement in the frequency when an odour event occurrs it is horrendous. I support the Grays whose family have lived on their property for 99 years . Meadow mushrooms can afford to comply with the law and their bleating is just that. They wish to create air pollution to make profit. I have sympathy for the workers who may lose their jobs however , meadow Mushrooms are poor employers with a non union work force with a high staff turnover paying minimum wage. They are using this as a crusade against the RMA and those who support meadow mushrooms don't know their elbows from their well you know the rest.

Reply
Share

Meadow mushrooms are exactly where they have been for a lifetime. Its Morrinsville that has moved to be closer to them. I suggest that Paul and his family should just simply move away. Suppors do know the RMA to be what is is. A one sided complainfeast that keeps council employess in clover whilst giving quasi neigbours and jonnycomlatelys credibility they dont warrant. The RMA looks likely to be repealed soon and it cant come soon enough for me.

Reply
Share

Sir. I have worked in such places as farmes. and the only way to get rid of bad smells is to build a shalter over the pond with a chimney. and in the chimney have a set of gas jets to burn off the bad air and smells. Making sure the shade walls are off the ground by a foot or two off the ground to let in fresh air, so as not blow up the shade as it would be very explosive material. Just a idea that might save the mushroom factory and jobs. Kind regards Michael.

Reply
Share

The Chines have come up with a very good idea and that is compresses the bad smelling air in to gas and bottle it, use it for cooking. I dont now if one could run a car on the gas. Just a idea that might help. Cheers Michael.

Reply
Share

I may not live in Morrinsville, I've never been there. I will be affected however by the closure of the mushroom farm. My partner produces the straw for the farm. His boss will lose his home and business as it's the main yearly income provider, if things turn to poo. We will be in the poo, but we don't have the assets he does.

Reply
Share

Paul Cronin's should stick to the point and avoid spurious comments to do with non-union labour and minimum wages which have nothing to do with whether an employer is good or bad. Now that the business is closing the employees' wages are 0 which is well below the minimum wage!

Reply
Share

Post New comment or question

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

NZ Market Snapshot

Forex

Sym Price Change
USD 0.7895 0.0011 0.14%
AUD 0.9090 0.0006 0.07%
EUR 0.6372 -0.0003 -0.05%
GBP 0.5044 0.0002 0.04%
HKD 6.1234 0.0037 0.06%
JPY 93.1020 0.2160 0.23%

Commods

Commodity Price Change Time
Gold Index 1201.1 7.690 2014-11-21T00:
Oil Brent 78.6 -0.120 2014-11-21T00:
Oil Nymex 76.5 0.710 2014-11-21T00:
Silver Index 16.4 0.260 2014-11-21T00:

Indices

Symbol Open High Last %
NZX 50 5526.9 5526.9 5526.9 -0.56%
NASDAQ 4751.0 4751.6 4701.9 0.24%
DAX 9521.2 9736.1 9484.0 2.62%
DJI 17721.0 17894.8 17719.0 0.51%
FTSE 6678.9 6773.1 6678.9 1.08%
HKSE 23883.3 23936.3 23437.1 1.89%
NI225 17285.7 17381.6 17300.9 0.33%