AFFCO workers run for council 'to save community'

AFFCO workers run for council 'to save community'

Two union members have told The Nation they are running for the Whanganui council to put pressure on AFFCO, one of the region's biggest employers, to look after the community.

AFFCO meat plants operate in small, rural areas across the North Island, often forming the backbone of employment for those communities.

They're hoping to improve both workers' rights and the treatment of the environment.

Phillip "Bear" Reweti has worked for years at the AFFCO Imlay meatworks. But now he's running for the Whanganui District Council to help ensure AFFCO is a good corporate citizen.

Lately, it's been accused of dragging its heels on committing to the new waste water treatment plant the district needs.

"It looks like they just want to pipe it all out to the river or out to sea and get away with paying no rates. They just want to use the Whanganui ratepayers, the people of Whanganui," says Mr Reweti.

Wastewater has been pumped into the sea since Whanganui's treatment plant failed in 2013.

The AFFCO Imlay meatworks is the town's biggest producer of waste, and it's been dumping more than it's allowed.

Minutes from the Whanganui District Council show all six big industrial waste contributors were sampled in February 2014.

"Affco Imlay was the only industry that did not comply with the maximum consent limits," says a note from the minutes.

Over 10 working days the council tested AFFCO Imlay's waste. On eight of them AFFCO exceeded its waste limit.

"Never once in any reporting period did it manage to meet its consent," says Deputy Mayor Hamish McDouall.

It also owes the council substantial sums in unpaid rates.

"They challenge our charging model and they do that consistently and it's their right to do that," says Mr McDouall.

"But it means the council has to get into dialogue with AFFCO to try and resolve whether it's a dispute about measurement or the trade waste model. It's quite a consistent business position of AFFCO."

AFFCO told The Nation: "Our negotiations with the council regarding their wastewater fees from 2014 are ongoing and currently subject to a resolution process."

It added: "AFFCO has no issues with any individual's decision to run for local body council, and AFFCO is a good corporate citizen."

Since Talley's took over AFFCO in 2010, it's been in a bitter and well publicised dispute with the unions.

The unions say this new tactic of trying to get two candidates on the council is about safeguarding workers' rights, but also about safeguarding the environment.