That appears to be the business strategy of meat processor and marketer AFFCO … certainly its Wairoa operation.

According to NZ Farmers Weekly, AFFCO just announced a group profit of $36.56 million for the year ended September 30, 2010 — up from $25.2 million the prior year. The company, now wholly-owned by the Talleys group, is holding $52 million in cash or near cash.

Meantime, in Wairoa, AFFCO is spending as little as it can, as slowly as it can, to come into compliance with effluent discharge conditions — imposed by the HB Regional Council back in July 2009! — it is miles away from complying with. As previously reported, at times water tests have revealed faecal coliform counts of 3600cfu/100ml, when the District Health Board says anything over 550cfu/100ml triggers danger alerts. Indeed, the “safe recreation” level is only 260cfu/100ml.

AFFCO has appealed the HBRC conditions and is engaged in a protracted mediation with the Regional Council … a process now effectively in suspended animation while AFFCO tries to ‘diffuse’ the waste products it is dumping into the Wairoa River. Given the high levels of waste the plant is discharging, one might be justifiably skeptical that ‘diffusion’ (spreading the waste in finer particles into the river) will be sufficient to protect human health or the ecology of the river.

How do you feel about swimming in thin gruel versus thick?

Under an agreement negotiated with HBRC, AFFCO has until September 30 to establish that measures it is taking are capable to bringing it into compliance with new (i.e., 2009) consent conditions. Failing to satisfy HBRC, the matter would go to Environment Court by November 2011.

Meanwhile the waste pours out.

And AFFCO runs adverts in the latest Farmers Weekly (and elsewhere I presume) boasting:

“At AFFCO, it’s what you find behind the doors that counts.

We’ve invested in better meat processing techniques for more than a century, and we’re still investing today. In fact, in the past five years alone, we’ve spent more than $117 million where it will benefit you most — inside our plants.”

They might as well add: Who cares what happens outside our plants. Screw the environment!

AFFCO has claimed that it might cost $2 million to clean up its Wairoa plant. Even if that’s true (no such plan has been put forward), that amount can now be viewed in the context of which AFFCO boasts — $117 million in investment in the past five years alone.

The Farmers Weekly article notes that AFFCO’s “core business is in contract sales to big supermarkets in the United Kingdom and Europe.” Boy, would BayBuzz like to get in the ears of those buyers … maybe they’re the ones who tell their customers they only buy from ‘clean, green’ New Zealand sources! What do they know, I wonder, about AFFCO’s environmental practices?!

Get me The Guardian!

Tom Belford

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5 Comments

  1. I'm a rate payer in the Wairoa District and have long been appalled and amazed that Affco have been allowed to continue to pollute our river here with the blessing of our local district council as well as HBRC. Our local council is so deperate to keep Affco here that they have heavily discounted their rates so in fact the local community here is subsidising the pollution. I certainly don't support either the pollution or the discounted rates but the community here has been given no choice, like a lot of things, it all happens behind closed doors.

  2. This is outrageous! But there doesn't seem to be a chance of anything changing until Sept and that's only to 'show that it is capable of…" As you say, meanwhile the waste pours out. $52 million ay… It's hard to believe the cynicism of these guys.

  3. I'm also a Wairoa ratepayer and have lived by and swum in the river for most of my life. Congratulations on this succinct lttle article outlining the salient points about the situation – great background facts about AFFCO's profits, the consents position etc. Notifications about consent applications can pass by unnoticed by such as myself – it sometimes seems that the Wairoa population is a compliant one – yet I think it needs the local population to say 'no' and object before AFFCO will be forced to tidy up it's act. The publicising of such issues is where Baybuzz is so effective.

  4. No teeth,no guts,no brains.This should descibe the Wairoa estuary not the HBRC.So much for Affco saying there are no dangerous pathogens released into the river,Maf backed off from a threat of prosecution of a local farmer whose worker contracted leptospirosis, when told he walked his dog at the wairoa river mouth.I doubt they would have done that if they thought AFFCO was squeaky clean

  5. I grew up in Wairoa.

    I swam and played and whitebaited in the Wairoa River a lot — along with the rest of my generation — until the 1960s when we got a magnificent town baths set-up.

    The river water always had a funny taste. I just thought it was the sewage discharge plant downriver of "the bloodpipe" from the freezing works. I presume the sewage is still going in there as well.

    It was not unknown for sharks to be seen cruising upriver past the freezing works — I'd say at least 3km from the river mouth.

    We Wairoa College pupils always wondered why we were routinely given typhoid vaccinations.

    Everyone including the Reg Cl is terrified that if Affco upstakes and leaves Wairoa the town will die. I don't believe it would .

    It would be helpful if the town had some assistance in diversifying; if Transit — anyone– would spend a wee bit of money to finish sealing the road between Wairoa and Lake Waikaremoana and the Urewera National Park. It's a gravel surfaced State Highway (38).

    But even more, someone needs to help market Wairoa as a hunter's paradise; It's got everything in natural abundance. Just one upmarket hunting lodge would do the trick, and Bob's your uncle.

    Kathy

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