Timaru Odour Pilot – businesses agree to management plans

We undertook a pilot project in February 2021 to gather odour information and data in the Washdyke and northern Timaru area. Having now analysed this data, we are working with businesses to reduce the impact on residents of odour reaching beyond business boundaries.

We will be providing updates on this page throughout the pilot.

Update 6: 22 June 2021

Environment Canterbury has recently signed Adaptive Management Plans with both Alliance Smithfield (northern Timaru) and South Canterbury By-Products (Washdyke). These Plans set out an agreed pathway to minimising odour discharges from their sites.

The Plans include actions the companies will take, based on thorough internal investigations they have completed in response to the findings of the Timaru Odour Pilot project.

Adaptive Management Plans to reduce odour

Southern zone delivery lead Brian Reeves said these actions include improved processes and some significant investment in plant and machinery. These businesses have spent considerable effort reviewing their processes and will undertake sizeable capital expenditure in some areas.

“We want to acknowledge that these businesses play a really important role in South Canterbury’s primary industries. The actions set out in these Plans demonstrate their commitment to the community to minimise any negative impacts their business activities may have.”

Next steps

The sign-off of these Adaptive Management Plans is one of the final phases of this Timaru Odour Pilot project. Environment Canterbury will continue to work with Alliance Smithfield and South Canterbury By-Products as they complete their actions as set out in the Plans.

All actions are expected to be completed by the end of November 2021. All parties involved expect to see a significant reduction in odour from that point on.

Reeves said, “Our officers will continue to monitor odour in Washdyke and northern Timaru as part of our usual business beyond the conclusion of the project. We are aware there are multiple sites that discharge odour to varying degrees in Washdyke, and we will continue our work in that area to improve air quality for residents and businesses alike.”

 “We would like to thank our pilot partners for their cooperation and collaboration during this process.”

Residents encouraged to keep reporting odours

Please continue to report any odour through the Smelt-It app. These reports will be dealt with through our normal compliance framework.

Continued reporting is an important part of ensuring that measures being taken to improve the odour situation are effective as quickly as possible.

What action is being taken against the identified odour emitters?
These businesses provide a critical service to the local economy and it is not our intention to close any businesses down. They will need time to make necessary changes to operations to ensure no further offensive and objectionable odours travel beyond their boundaries. We will work with them through these changes and will use our regulatory powers if required.
What about the other odours?

Environment Canterbury will continue to work with other odour-emitting businesses in Washdyke/northern TImaru to ensure they are managing odour appropriately, and that they make any changes necessary to improve.

Please note that this pilot focused on northern Timaru and Washdyke, not other areas of Timaru that may also have odour-emitting sources. In other areas, please report any odours using our incident response hotline.

What should residents do now?
Residents of Washdyke and northern Timaru are strongly encouraged to continue to report odours using the Smelt-it app. Continued reporting will be an important part of ensuring that measures being taken to improve the odour situation are effective as quickly as possible.
How fast can we expect to see the odour issue improve?
We would expect to see significant improvements over the next couple of months.
Are there any health impacts associated with these odours?

Canterbury District Health Board's Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink said that the risk of long-term health effects associated with the odour is considered to be low.

However, repeated or prolonged exposure to odour can be stressful, and the person experiencing this may become particularly sensitive to the presence of the odour.

Acute health effects may vary between individuals since perceptions of, and sensitivity to, odour can vary widely. If the symptoms persist or you are experiencing effects, such as eye, nose or throat irritation and/or have a pre-existing medical condition then you should speak to your GP.

Note: Canterbury Community and Public Health provides public health services to the South Canterbury population in alignment with the South Canterbury District Health Board.

Pilot updates

Update 5: 30 April 2021

Two Timaru businesses have investigated the likely reasons why they were found to be emitting offensive odours in February 2021.

Alliance Smithfield (northern Timaru) and South Canterbury By-Products (Washdyke) were requested by Environment Canterbury to establish the likely causes for offensive and objectionable odour beyond their property boundaries during a Timaru Odour Pilot project in February 2021.

Both businesses, who voluntarily took part in the pilot project, have now reported back to Environment Canterbury on their initial findings, which included information on operational equipment and processes, as well as identifying potential areas for resolving issues.

Management plans to reduce odour

Southern zone manager Chris Eccleston says the next step will be to work directly with the businesses on a management plan to reduce odour impacting the Timaru community.

“The aim for these businesses is to become compliant with their resource consents and our regional plans. We’ll report back to the community on progress and the adaptive management plans that will be put in place for both by the end of May.”

Timaru Odour Pilot

See how residents in Washdyke and northern Timaru helped find the source of unpleasant odours in the area using a new reporting app.

Residents encouraged to keep reporting odours

While this process is underway, any new complaints or Smelt-it app reports will be dealt with through the normal compliance framework. Residents of Washdyke and northern Timaru are strongly encouraged to continue to report odours using the Smelt-it app. Continued reporting will be an important part of ensuring that measures being taken to improve the odour situation are effective as quickly as possible.

Other Washdyke and northern Timaru sites that were identified as causing nuisance odour beyond their boundaries during the pilot are also being investigated.

“These businesses have also identified areas for improvement. We will be monitoring to see if these result in a reduction in odour reports,” Eccleston said.

Update 4: 31 March 2021

Our recent odour pilot in Washdyke and northern Timaru has established the two main businesses that are emitting odour beyond their property boundaries.

The pilot ran for the month of February, with residents reporting odours via the Smelt-it mobile device app. This data was then combined with weather data and wind information, on-the-ground reports from incident response officers, and an independent odour assessor’s report.

During the pilot, 235 individual Smelt-it reports were logged, from 111 unique users. The most commonly used category to describe the odour was “meaty, rancid, dead animal, decayed” (70% of the reports). 92% of all reports rated the odour as objectionable.

Odour sources 

Of our pilot partners, the two businesses found to be causing offensive and objectionable odour beyond their property boundaries were Alliance Smithfield (north Timaru) and South Canterbury By-Products (Washdyke). Other sites that met the threshold will be dealt with through the normal compliance framework.

Some other businesses in the area were found to be causing odour that did not meet the “offensive or objectionable” threshold.

Environment Canterbury Project Lead Ruth Sarson says: “We will be working closely with these companies to help them to become compliant with their resource consents and our regional rules. Both companies appreciate that there is significant community concern around this issue and are willing to work with us to address the problem.”

Action taken

Environment Canterbury officer assessments substantiated many of the community’s Smelt-it reports, including 31 in Washdyke and 11 in northern Timaru. As a result, during the pilot period, eight notices of non-compliance were issued (seven to Alliance Smithfield and one to South Canterbury By-Products).

“We are incredibly grateful to the public for taking the time to be part of this process, which has allowed us to understand and document this problem in a way not previously possible. We all hope that this will be the beginning of a greatly improved situation for residents and businesses alike,” Sarson said.

Update 3: 25 March 2021

A public meeting was held to discuss the findings of this odour pilot, which ran from 1-28 February and used the Smelt-it app to learn more about odour issues affecting residents of Washdyke and northern Timaru.

Find out more about the outcomes of the pilot.

Please continue to report any odour you may smell through our incident response hotline on 0800 765 588.

Update 2: 1 March 2021
The pilot has now ended and we are moving into the analysis phase, looking at all the data and information received, including from:
  • Smelt-it reports,
  • businesses on their operations,
  • weather data and wind patterns, and
  • the independent odour assessor.

We want to thank members of the Washdyke/Timaru communities and the local businesses that have taken part in the pilot.

We look forward to reporting back on our findings at the end of March.

Update 1: 10 February 2021
map of Smelt-it reports

This map shows some of the clusters of Smelt-it reports over the first week of the pilot. Full results will be shared with the public at the end of the pilot.

Timaru residents are helping find the source of unpleasant odours by using the Environment Canterbury smelt-it.web.app this February.

A pilot project, targeting Washdyke and the northern Timaru area, aims to gather better odour information and data using the free website app.

For the past week, Timaruvians have been able to use Smelt-it to easily and anonymously record noticeable odours, which are then investigated by a team in the target zone using mapping technology and odour assessment methods. In addition, businesses in the area are proactively taking part in the pilot, working closely with Environment Canterbury to help identify potential odours as they are reported.

Feedback on Smelt-it and other analysis will be analysed and shared with the public and local businesses once the pilot ends. However, our team working on the ground in the Washdyke and northern Timaru area is already developing a better understanding of the range and nature of odours in the area.

Southern zone delivery lead Brian Reeves said having more ‘real-time’ reports coming through from the public is helping build the big picture of which businesses are emitting different odours at different times.

"Overall, the aim is to reduce odour reaching beyond business boundaries to reduce the impact these odours have on our community. With Smelt-it, we’re able to collect more data and respond in a timely manner, where possible. The more people that use Smelt-it when they smell an odour in northern Timaru, the more successfully we’ll be able to accurately pinpoint and assess a source."

The team have also had good feedback about how Smelt-it focuses on the impact on a person’s daily life rather than a numbered scale.

“We’re looking for meaningful information – like is the smell bad enough to stop you from enjoying being in your backyard? It’s a much more practical approach to monitoring odour impact,” said Reeves.

Two public drop-in sessions have also been held, where residents asked questions about the pilot and gave feedback on Smelt-it and their experiences with odour issues in Timaru.

“We had a good turn-out and the level of engagement was high. We’re confident those that came along will be telling all their friends and family to use Smelt-it if they experience a bad odour in the area.”

Background to pilot

From 1 to 28 February, residents were asked to log any noticeable odour in the area using the Smelt-it app (or by phoning 0800 765 588). At the same time, we were:

  • working with businesses in the area to get more information on their operations and timing of certain activities
  • gathering weather data and monitoring wind patterns, and
  • employing an independent odour assessor to spend time in the area to provide an impartial, outside perspective.

Southern Zone Delivery Lead Brian Reeves said that odour is a serious concern for many residents in the Washdyke and northern Timaru area.

"This pilot – and particularly the different data streams – will enable us to bring together odour reports, the physical impact on residents and the likely location at the same time. We hope this will give us a compelling picture of the situation, in a way we’ve not been able to before."

Reeves emphasises the importance of the collaborative element of the project.

“We are excited to work with both the community and local businesses on this pilot, all of whom have a collective desire to improve the situation for everyone involved, and particularly affected residents. The businesses we have spoken to are on board and cooperating fully.”

Got questions?

Learn more about the pilot and using Smelt-it with our frequently asked questions below.

Pilot overview
What is the pilot study about? 
We know odour is a serious concern for people living in Washdyke and northern Timaru. Traditional ways of responding to odour reports from the community haven't been effective.
This pilot study will use odour reports from the community via a mobile app and compare them with wind and weather data and business operational information. This should build a comprehensive picture of what was occurring on particular days and provide the information needed to inform changes that should improve the situation. The information generated is far more detailed and of far greater quality than has previously been available. It brings together three streams of data to better understand odour, source and impact, which we had not been able to do before.
This information will inform decisions to better manage odour and reduce instances of odour reaching beyond business boundaries, and improve the situation for residents.
Is this work going to make these smells go away? 
Having more data from the community and businesses will increase the chances of finding the source(s) of odour and inform decisions of the management of it.
We cannot guarantee the odours will be eliminated entirely, but we should reduce instances of odour reaching beyond odour-emitting business boundaries.
We will continue to monitor the situation and will review progress. Continued reports from the community via the Smelt-it app, will be a vital part of monitoring progress.
What will Environment Canterbury do differently during the pilot?
The pilot study should gather more comprehensive community feedback and other data than previously gathered. Using an app to support community reporting and new technology to track real time data brings together three independent data sources – community reports, operational information and environmental data.
We will be prioritising staff resource to Washdyke odour reports to support the pilot study and corroborate what the community is reporting – in normal circumstances, officers might be prioritised elsewhere when a report is made.
An independent odour specialist will also undertake assessments during the pilot period to provide an impartial, outside perspective.
Who is involved?
We encourage anyone working in, living in, or visiting Washdyke to get involved and report any odour they noticed via the Smelt-it app.
I own/manage a business in the area; how does this impact me?
Part of this pilot is looking at a new way of working with businesses in the area that have previously been, or will be, identified as potential odour emitting sites.
We want to encourage better information sharing to identify possible causes of odours and reduce them.
I don’t live in or near Washdyke/northern Timaru, but I have noticed odour problems. What should I do? 
Please call 0800 765 588 (24 hours) to report any environmental incident.
What about south Timaru and the industrial Redruth area?
The February 2021 pilot is focusing on Washdyke and northern Timaru as these are the areas where historically we have received the largest number of odour notifications. Once this pilot is complete, it is likely we will be able to use the results to tackle odour issues in other areas of South Canterbury and throughout the region.
What happens at the end of the pilot?
We will analyse the feedback from Smelt-it and other data and information gathered and report back to the community.
Using Smelt-it
How do I access Smelt-it?
Head to Smelt-it.web.app and complete the form.
I’m having trouble entering the address into Smelt-it, what do I do?
We recommend you enter the closest address to where you are standing when you experience the odour (Smelt-it needs an address entered so that the data we are getting is as informative as possible).
I only notice the smell at the weekend, should I still log it in Smelt-it?
Yes.
I work in Washdyke but don’t live there, can I use Smelt-it?
Yes, if you work in the Washdyke area and notice an odour during the day, please report it using Smelt-it.
Why can’t I input what I think the source of the odour is into Smelt-it?

We need to know where you were when you notice the odour and at what time.

We will then use wind direction and dispersion models to narrow down potential sources using a scientific approach.

It’s important that we test the community’s experience against scientific data to narrow down the potential sources.
Historical reports from the community to us show that people have different views and opinions on where the odour might be coming from. It is important during the trial we keep an open mind.
Will I receive a call or some sort of confirmation after I log a Smelt-it?
If you log a Smelt-it notification, you will only receive a phone call from us if we require further information (and then only if you’ve provided your details).
I am experiencing issues using Smelt-it, what do I do?

Please see the FAQs on the Smelt-it tool for information.

Alternatively, you can call 0800 324 636 and talk to one of the team for help.

I don’t have a mobile, how can I be involved?

You can also use Smelt-it on a tablet or desktop computer.

If you need assistance, call us on 0800 324 636 and we can help.

You can also continue to report odours via our incident response line on 0800 765 588.

Background
What is Environment Canterbury’s role regarding odour?
We are responsible for regulating discharges to air under the Resource Management Act and the Canterbury Air Regional Plan.
We are also responsible for responding to reports of odour from the community.
What are acute and chronic odours?
An acute odour is one that is very smelly for a short period of time – high in intensity, but low in frequency. It is offensive and objectionable, but short-lived and isolated.
These types of odours are typically easier to evidentially prove.
A chronic odour may not be as smelly but may happen regularly i.e. daily or weekly – low in intensity, but high in frequency.
If this type of odour is experienced on an isolated basis, it would not be considered offensive and objectionable.
However, over a long period of time, the odour can become offensive and objectionable.
A chronic odour is evidentially harder to prove as a history of non-compliance would be required.
Traditionally, our response has been focused on acute odours, but we’ve realised we need to address the ongoing chronic odours which really impact on the residents.
Why do you refer to "offensive and objectionable" odours?
Ministry for the Environment guidelines state that offensive is defined as "giving or meant to give offence; disgusting, foul-smelling, nauseous, repulsive".
Objectionable is defined as "open to objection, unpleasant, offensive".
The Canterbury Air Regional Plan states the odour shall not cause offensive and objectionable effect beyond the property boundary.
Are there any health impacts associated with these odours?
Canterbury District Health Board's Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ramon Pink said that the risk of long-term health effects associated with the odour is considered to be low.
However, repeated or prolonged exposure to odour can be stressful, and the person experiencing this may become particularly sensitive to the presence of the odour.
Acute health effects may vary between individuals due to the fact that perceptions of, and sensitivity to, odour can vary widely.
If the symptoms persist or you are experiencing effects, such as eye, nose or throat irritation and/or have a pre-existing medical condition then you should speak to your GP.
How is the pilot study different to previous efforts to determine the cause of odour?
Previously, we had used Ministry for the Environment guidance on key considerations when undertaking odour assessments.
As well, our response has been focused on acute odours, but we realised we need to address the ongoing chronic odours which really impact on residents.
While it might appear straightforward, determining the source of an odour to the degree necessary to support action required to address it is complex – there can be a number of variables involved – including wind, weather, distance, temperature and topography – and taking action requires a proper standard of evidence, which in turn helps ensure an appropriate action can be taken.
Previously, when reports were made, the situation could easily change by the time an officer arrived to investigate a report. The pilot study essentially crowd-sourced information from the community and used a range of other information sources to build a far more comprehensive picture of what was going on. This is a very new approach to addressing these sorts of issues.