Company offering waste-to-energy plant in Waimate lobbies for local support

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The company proposing to build a waste-to-energy plant in Waimate lobbied for local support, asking the district council for lists of the most influential people in the community and the mayor’s approval to use in advertising .

Emails between representatives of South Island Resource Recovery Limited (SIRRL) and Waimate District Council staff, posted under the Local Government Official Information Act, show requests for help and support from the company over the proposed construction of a $ 350 million waste-to-energy plant in the city. .

Last month, SIRRL announced plans to build the factory and held community workshops to engage with the Waimate community.

A similar plan on the West Coast, involving two of the company’s main players, was scrapped in 2019 after failing to gain public support.

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SIRRL requires the consent of the resources of elected council members and Canterbury Environment, as well as the support of the Waimate community and the local iwi to move its plans forward.

Prior to these meetings, correspondence between SIRRL Director Kevin Stratful, the company’s public relations advisor – Erin Jamieson of the Christchurch-based Convergence Company, and a staff member from Waimate District Council, shows that the council helped the business.

In an email sent on August 11, 2021, the board staff member offered to help the company by saying:

“Yeah, what exciting news! We are happy to help as much as possible and advise you if necessary. If you need any help from the council, please do not hesitate to contact me, ”they wrote.

On August 12, Jamieson responded by requesting a list of influential members of the community.

“I’m wondering if you can send me the list of influencers in the community and the Facebook groups we should connect with. “

Artist's impression of the factory planned to be built in Waimate, as shown in an SIRRL brochure.

Provided / Content

Artist’s impression of the factory planned to be built in Waimate, as shown in an SIRRL brochure.

The board member responded to this request by saying, “Most of the influencers in the community are in Rotary. They often have groups introduced to them, so what about Kevin (Stratful) giving them a presentation like he did at the board on the 26th? They would be happy about it.

The staff member also sent Jamieson a list of organizations that included the names of people to contact. The list included members from Waimate Rotary, Waimate Whitestone Lions and Lionnes, Freemasons, Women’s Institute, Gray Power and Federated Farmers. She also suggested that the company undertake a mail depot in Morven.

The next day, Jamieson asked them to provide a list of media contacts and

if they could have a quote from Waimate District Mayor Craig Rowley included in the advertisement the company was planning to do.

The council member responded that it was best to only include a quote from the mayor in a press release on the matter.

“If it’s included in the ad, people can read it as a testimonial that we don’t want because it needs to be neutral at this point.”

A senior spokesperson for the New Zealand local government said that reading the emails between the council and SIRRL, it would be easy to think that council staff “had their thumbs in the balance.”

“However, this is balanced by careful checks and balances in the system, and they have to get the consent of the resources and go through a consultative process.

“They will also need to have a solid business case, and everything will be done in the public eye.”

Stratful hoped to gain public support for the council.

Residents of Waimate meet with representatives of the SIRRL at a public meeting in the town last month.

Valentina Bellomo / Stuff

Residents of Waimate meet with representatives of the SIRRL at a public meeting in the town last month.

On July 30, he emailed another board staff member:

“Apart from ECan, which cannot take a position at this stage, we have the support of all parties. Council support will be very important, and we ask if the council is able to publicly support the project at a future date.

Taituarā – Local government professionals Ann Thomson, general manager of communications and partnerships for Aotearoa, said council staff should always be professional in dealing with companies that contact a council, including those offering such initiatives. .

“There will usually be a separation between the staff involved in the future consent process you are referring to and, for example, those involved in economic development and job creation and attraction and the rightness of enthusiasm or The staff member’s support for a project will be influenced by the role they hold and whether or not the project aligns with the board’s strategies and policies.

Thomson said it would be usual for boards to know who the top influencers and stakeholders are in their community.

“Thus, depending on specific circumstances and confidentiality requirements, this type of information is likely to be provided to people who request it as part of information held by counsel.

“It would also be reasonable for council staff to advise a company wishing to engage with the community on the best ways to do so.”

SIRRL included three partners, China Tianying Ltd (CNTY), the largest shareholder, Renew Energy NZ and Urbaser which CNTY recently sold to Platinum Equity for $ 4.2 billion.

The company has also been working to gain the support of the Chinese owners of the Waimate Yili Group / Oceania Dairy dairy plant.

On June 28, Stratful emailed Board CEO Stuart Duncan:

“There were several meetings between CNTY and Yili at the CEO / President level to get Yili’s support for the project.

“The progress is very positive.

Chronology:

2018: Government Withdraws Promised $ 350,000 Grant to Renew Energy for West Coast Waste-to-Energy Plant After Company CEO Gerard Gallagher Is Investigated by Serious Fraud Office.

Renew Energy is seeking and securing $ 300 million in financial support from China Tianying Inc (CNTY) by signing a secret deal in China. The then mayor of Buller, Garry Howard, also signed the agreement.

January 2019: Renew Energy files a resource permit to store 132,000 tonnes of waste at Reefton. The request is withdrawn after public opposition.

March 2019: Renew Energy is pulling out of building a plant in Westport due to lack of public support. Howard’s involvement and signing of an agreement with China Tianying become public.

April 2019: Howard faces a vote of no confidence from his advisers for failing to keep them informed.

September 2021: SIRRL announces its proposal to build near Waimate.


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