Petone’s Exide recycling plant closed on Saturday, tossing 40 staff out of work.
The long-term future of the Waione Rd site remains uncertain with long decommissioning and decontamination processes about to start.
Exide decided to close the plant after losing a court battle over the export of used batteries to third-world countries such as the Philippines. Exide had claimed the exports were illegal under international treaties and that the batteries needed to be recycled here if the Petone plant were to remain economic.
But the Court of Appeal ruled that the exports were permissible.
The closure also follows numerous breaches of consent conditions and concerns from local residents that lead discharges from the plant were damaging their health.
Hutt South MP Trevor Mallard who supported residents who wanted the plant closed says he’s sorry for the workers who have lost their jobs. But he believes the closure was inevitable. “I’m of the view that’s always been a third-world-type facility. It’s inappropriate to have it in an area where people live. I’m pleased to see it closed.”
Mr Mallard says, in time, he would like the Waione Rd site to be made available for industrial use. “I would want it to be thoroughly cleaned before anyone makes use of it.”
Hutt mayor Ray Wallace says he hopes the closure doesn’t mean the dumping of batteries. ‘I’m sorry for the 40 or 50 people who have lost their jobs.”
He says the clean-up is a matter for Greater Wellington and Exide, not the city council. “We may see a site that’s vacant for quite a time. But it would be great if there’s an opportunity for a new business to start up.”
Property broker Richard Faisandier from Bayleys Capital Commercial believes the site could be very marketable - provided it is thoroughly cleaned and decontaminated.
“It’s reasonably desirable real estate down that neck of the woods. A new owner could well improve the site.”
Mr Faisandier says the site benefits from two street frontages and its proximity to transport links. But purchasers are unlikely to want it unless they know it has been fully cleaned up. “There’s quite a process to go through. But at the end it should be quite a desirable site.”
However, he says the future of the site depends on Exide and it has yet to indicate its plans.