New Zealand is to resume dredging its rivers, but will not allow the use of the technology to extract heavy metals from the waters.
Key points:Dredge is used to clean up sediment that accumulates in coastal areas, but the technology is still controversialSome communities have complained of health risks from the chemicals used, and the country’s Environment Ministry is investigating what is known as “snow drift”.
It is a new approach that has been criticised by environmentalists, as well as the environment ministry, who say it can cause more problems than it solves.
New Zealanders are not allowed to use the dredge equipment on their rivers unless it is approved by the government.
The country’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is now looking into whether it is in the national interest to continue using the technology.
“We need to ensure that there are safeguards in place,” said the environment minister, Paula Bennett.
“That is why we are going to consult the industry and the public to understand how best to proceed with this programme.”
The government is also looking at whether to increase the use rate of dredge for the first time since 2007.
“In this period, the use rates have not been increasing as quickly as we would like, and there is a concern that we are not going to be able to keep up with the increasing demand,” said Bennett.
“We have increased the use in the past couple of years to help manage sediment in our waterways.”
The use rate has increased steadily over the past decade and the government is looking at how to increase that again, she said.
“It’s not just a matter of using the latest technology, we have to look at what are the best ways to keep that level of sediment and get rid of it and that’s where we are right now.”
The technology involves injecting a liquid into the sediments and pushing the liquid out.
The EPA is looking into the safety of the process and the risks it poses to people, animals and the environment.
Some community groups have raised concerns about the risk of contamination from the process.
Auckland City Council’s Environment and Heritage committee is also reviewing the issue.
The use rates for the new technology have not yet been published, but environmental groups have warned that they could increase dramatically over the next few years.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) has said it is aware of the issues raised by environmental groups, and will study the issue in the near future.
“This is a matter for NEA to investigate and work out what the best course of action is for New Zealand,” a spokesperson said.