From rural road to dump truck highway

PRESS RELEASE from Blackbridge Environmental Protection Society:

Plans to turn part of a quiet rural road into a managed landfill serviced by hundreds of dump trucks each week have galvanised a Dairy Flat community.

Although only a handful of property owners were formally notified of the landfill proposal, more than 170 people turned up to a hastily-called meeting at the Dairy Flat Hall on Tuesday 17 November to discuss their concerns.

Local company Norsho Bulc hopes to use a 64 hectare block of land between Blackbridge Rd and Horseshoe Bush Rd in dump contaminated soil, six days a week, for 10 years.  Residents have until Friday 4 December to make submissions on the proposal.

Tanya Syme, secretary of the newly formed Blackbridge Environmental Protection Society, says people attending the meeting were appalled by the landfill proposal, which would turn their quiet, clean, safe environment into a noisy, dusty, toxic mess.

“The fact the council is prepared to look at a plan that is non-complying is a surprise, and the level of work proposed by Norsho Bulc, is causing the community a great deal of concern.”

She says while Blackbridge Rd residents will bear the brunt of the proposed activity, with on average 480 heavy trucks pounding up and down the country lane 6 days a week, the dump itself should worry anyone with property bordering the proposed landfill site.

“And in fact a lot of the people at Tuesday’s meeting were from other nearby parts of Dairy Flat.”

Blackbridge Rd residents say the proposal raises major traffic safety, human health and environmental concerns.

They say their road is narrow, has no footpath, and is on the school bus route.  It is popular with walkers, horse riders and cyclists. The road has a single lane bridge on a blind bend.

Residents say the bridge has been the scene of many near misses from cars and trucks travelling in opposite directions.

One resident, Louise Johnston, said she had a near miss from a truck while she was crossing the bridge when out on a run.

“When it comes to a truck weighing around 40 tonnes, car users and pedestrians will always come off worse in a collision,“ she says. “And with the added risk of a single lane bridge on a blind bend it will only be a matter of time before a local is killed or seriously injured.

“Ministry of Transport statistics show clearly that truck drivers will often walk away unharmed when they kill a pedestrian, cyclist or other road user.”

The residents’ action group cites a 2015 Ministry of Transport report that shows 23% of the death toll on the roads in 2014 was as a result of collisions with trucks.

In all 67 people died as a result of truck-related accidents last year, of which 13 were truck occupants, the rest were other road users.

Blackbridge Road residents say their intersection with Dairy Flat highway will become even more dangerous.

“Over the past four years I’ve been aware of one fatality and another serious accident,” said Louise Johnston.

Residents at the meeting also raised concerns about air and water pollution from the trucks and the landfill.

“A managed landfill can contain toxic chemicals such as arsenic, copper, chrome and mercury,” says resident Tammy Stitt.

“All of us are on tank water in Blackbridge Road.  Dust thrown up by the trucks and any contaminants blown from the landfill will end up in our streams, and in our water tanks.”

Steve Hart is a Dairy Flat resident.