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Turning Biowaste into Compost

The Thames Coromandel District is one of the very few districts in the country mixing biosolids with green waste and turning it into Grade Aa compost with its own Biosolid Composting Facility.

“This is an innovative and sustainable outcome of creating a beneficial product from human waste,” says Thames Coromandel District Council Project Manager Rob Paterson. “This waste would otherwise be disposed of in landfill at an on-going cost to the ratepayer and the environment.”

The retail grade compost will be used on our parks and reserves with the long-term plan that it’s sold to people who can use it to fertilise their gardens, orchards or nurseries.

A rigorous trial was carried out over six months at the Tairua Refuse Transfer Station in which the council followed strict conditions and underwent independent testing and monitoring by the Waikato Regional Council.

Included as part of this process was the establishment of strictly controlled field site trials in which the compost was spread and monitored in the open environment.

The trial proved the compost was safe and of a Grade Aa quality which means it is like any other compost available from retailers. As with the use of all compost products widely available for use by gardeners, caution must always be taken when handling compost.

The composting facility opens up even more opportunities to reuse some of the waste we generate on the Peninsula and reduce the amount disposed of in landfill.

Thames-Coromandel residents produce around 1,673 tonnes a year of biosolids and wastewater treatment plant screenings which are sent to landfill at Tirohia, contributing to the 18,029 tonnes per year of total waste to landfill.

Frequently Asked Questions.

What is Biosolids?

Biosolids is the nutrient-rich organic materials resulting from the treatment of domestic wastewater in a specialized treatment facility

What is Green Waste?

Green Waste is biodegradable waste that can be composed from tree or plant matter. Green waste can also be domestic and commercial food waste. At this stage our Biosolid composter will only be taking garden green waste, not food scraps.

Why is it a good thing to combine the two?

The alternative to creating compost from biosolids at our composting unit would be to transport the material to landfill, where methane gases and C02 is released.

Field Utilities Rep Evan Vaughters explains that the heating process not only retains the carbon inside the compost – making it carbon rich – but has been found to have much wider benefits in combatting global warming.

“Once you put that into the ground, our backyards effectively become carbon sinks, since it has been shown to help extract carbon from the atmosphere.”

Public Places

Planting Public Places Productively

Landscape Architect Jenny Wood from Natural Habitats shares her ideas about planting public places.

If you have the benefit (or the curse) of living in a city, you will have noticed that on average our backyards are getting smaller, while our waistlines are getting bigger. You don’t have to know a lot about physics to realise that these two trends will eventually arrive at an impasse. But before that happens, perhaps there is something we could do to avert a human logjam.

One step in the right direction could be to improve access to fresh fruit. With shrinking yard sizes, recent landscaping trends and the ever increasing cost of living – access to fresh food is now a struggle for many people.This brings me to the notion of productive planting in public spaces. Over the past 20 years or so, landscape architecture has seen our public spaces predominately planted with natives, with low maintenance and aesthetics the main priorities. While these designs are seen as visually appealing – and while I definitely promote native planting, they offer little in terms of produce for people or the ever-important bee.At Natural Habitats we believe that public spaces such as parks, reserves and streetscapes should be making a greater contribution to the physical and psychological health of our societies. By planting fruiting trees such as mandarins, feijoas, apples, and walnuts – and even perennial herb species such as rosemary and thyme, the local community could have access to a source of seasonal healthy fresh food.Collecting fruit right off the tree will not only save you a penny, add to your ‘five plus a day’ count, inspire a greater connection with nature, increase your feel good factor and foster a collective sense of community well being; it will also reduces transport carbon emissions associated with food.At Natural Habitats, we are practising what we are preaching and have designed and planted orchards in neighbourhood reserves at Stonefields, Stage 1 of the Tamaki Transformation Programme and also at a number of retirement villages throughout the North Island. We have found that residents are enjoying the health, financial and social benefits of accessible fruiting trees. Residents are interacting with each other, arranging ‘fruit bottling’ get-togethers and taking ownership of the project to ensure its prolonged success.We have continued our research with specialists at the Council, the Botanic gardens and also Landcare Research to develop a disease and pest resistant palette of fruiting trees suitable to the fickle Auckland climate.Our aim is to challenge the conventional notion of what a desirable landscape is. We believe a landscape must be evaluated not only in terms of its aesthetic, but also the value of its contribution to society. As populations continue to grow, we have no choice but to make the best use of increasingly limited spaces, and that means prioritising a landscapes functional role.

 Jenny WoodNatural Habitats 

For Jenny landscape architecture is about understanding the various processes that are acting upon the landscape. Jenny takes a holistic approach to design, producing resourceful, practical and creative design solutions that have a strong emphasis on sustainability and cultural needs.

Her experience spans the realms commercial, public open space, streetscape and private residential landscape design. Having entered the landscape architecture profession with a background in nursery work Jenny has a sound understanding of plants and their functionality within the landscape, knowledge which is evident in her work.

Jenny received a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from Unitec and is a member of the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects (NZILA)

Report large

Report Major Assault on the RMA

5 July 2012




The proposed changes to the purpose and principles of the Resource Management Act (RMA) are a major assault on the Act and on sustainable management, said Green Party environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage today.
The report released today by the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) outlines substantive changes to the principles of the RMA.

“If the Government was concerned about protecting our environment it would strengthen not further weaken the RMA,” said Ms Sage.

“The TAG recommendations are weighted towards facilitating development.

“This Government’s agenda is to weaken the RMA to advance its dig it, drill it, mine it, irrigate it agenda for resource exploitation.

“The proposal to drop the requirement for councils and decision makers to provide for the “preservation” of natural character and the “protection” of outstanding landscapes and significant indigenous vegetation and habitats as matters of national importance ignores Environment Court case law which had built up over the last 20 years.

“Changing these fundamental parts of the RMA will cause unnecessary litigation and tilt the playing field heavily towards development.

“Some of the changes around natural hazards may be sensible however the Minister is using natural hazard issues as a Trojan horse to weaken the Act’s fundamentals around protecting the coast, outstanding landscapes and indigenous biodiversity.

“The Alternate Technical Advisory Group Report prepared by independent technical specialists released in May was a more thoughtful, measured and coherent report. It provides a much more credible basis for changes to the Act,” said Ms Sage.

The Government’s Technical Advisory Group report can be found at:
The Alternative Technical Advisory Group report can be found at:

Report large

Report on RMA principles released

5 July, 2012

Environment Minister Amy Adams today released an independent report which considered changes to sections 6 and 7 of the Resource Management Act to address, among other things, management of natural hazards.

“After the Canterbury earthquakes, it became clear that consents for subdivisions had been granted without any consideration of the risk of liquefaction,” Ms Adams says.

“The problem was that the RMA did not, and still does not, require these sorts of risks to be assessed and managed.

“Instead, the RMA prioritises preserving natural character, landscape, flora and fauna, public access, cultural values and heritage over managing natural hazards.”

The Government asked an independent technical advisory group to provide advice on whether the RMA should be amended to give greater consideration to emerging issues like natural hazards, and urban and infrastructure development.

The report proposes that changes be made to the principles in sections 6 and 7 of the RMA to bring managing natural hazards and urban and infrastructure
into the list of things that should be considered when Councils grant resource consents.

It also says that none of these matters should be more important than another, and proposes changes to the structure of the RMA to make this clearer.

“The report represents the independent views of those on the advisory group, and the Government will consider the recommendations as part of our wider reforms of the resource management system.

“A key consideration for the Government in thinking about any changes to the resource management system is to achieve enduring outcomes while reducing the time, costs and uncertainties involved in the process.”

The report is available on the Environment Ministry’s website –

Anti-tree litigation has EDS bemused

The Property Council has launched an unusual challenge in the Environment Court to Auckland Council’s tree protection rules, says the Environmental Defence Society.

“We are aware that papers have been filed seeking a declaration from the Court with respect to matters that were subject to very similar proceedings and a decision just last year,” said EDS Chairman Gary Taylor.

“As a result of those proceedings, the Court clarified the law and there were no appeals. These proceedings seem to having another go at something we thought was done and dusted.

“So we are somewhat bemused at this stage as to both what the Property Council is trying to achieve and why it has initiated the proceedings at all.

“The current law, as defined in the earlier proceedings, is that rules in a district plan that prohibit the removal of trees or groups of trees in an urban environment will continue to have effect if they relate to trees specifically identified in a plan.

“There are a number of ways district plans can identify trees to fall within this exception.

“Clusters of trees identified by location is one example. Trees may also be defined by reference to a named species in a defined area or zone; by reference to a class of trees with defined characteristics in a defined area or zone; and by reference to all trees in a named ecosystem, habitat or landscape.

“This seems to strike a reasonable balance that achieves the purpose of the Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Act 2009 which removed blanket tree protection whilst still protecting trees specifically identified in the plan.

“We intend to seek a meeting with the Chief Executive of the Property Council to discuss the issues face to face.

“It may be that some mistake has been made,” Mr Taylor concluded.