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Tyre dumper may never pay

Thursday 17 Jan 2013 7:43 a.m.

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By 3 News online staff

An Auckland businessman has been convicted and fined for dumping up to 1 million tyres on Huntly property, but may never have to pay as no one knows where he is.

Ross Britten's company Ross (Des) Britten Ltd was fined $77,600 in the Hamilton District Court this week after being found guilty in 2011 of dumping the tyres. Britten himself was also convicted but before he could be sentenced he fled the country, and is now believed to be living in Australia.

"Absolutely by far and away this is the largest-scale tyre dumping I have ever seen by a long way," Waikato Regional Council investigator Patrick Lynch told Fairfax.

The tyres were discovered in 2009 during a flyover. Britten's company would take payments from retail tyre outlets to dispose of the tyres, but instead of doing it properly, just buried them.

Investigators found some of the tyres had sunk below deep into groundwater. It's also not known whether it would be even possible to move them all.

"It is a difficult thing because to locate and excavate all the tyres right now would have more environmental effects associated with it than leaving the tyres where they are," says Mr Lynch.

"I am not a scientist but suffice to say tyres are horrible things when they are exposed to water and start to break down and contaminate the groundwater."

It's not the first time Britten has been in trouble for stockpiling tyres. In 1999, the New Zealand Herald reported he was building a 2m-high wall made up of 50,000 tyres around his property in Swanson. He planned for it to eventually be 3km long and use more than 120,000 tyres.

"What harm is there in anyone bringing tyres on to their property?" he said at the time.

"They are totally inert, there can be no leachate into the streams and no fire risk if they are stored in a correct manner away from hazards ... where's the problem?"

There is a warrant for Britten's arrest.

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