Putrid unwanted sheep pelts being dumped in huge numbers, causing stink for neighbours

There are bad smells, there are really bad smells, and then there is the smell made by hundreds of fetid sheep pelts.
Its an odour that defies description, and its one that people living near the Hawkes Bay landfill have very reluctantly become accustomed to over the past year.

The smell wafts from the Omarunui landfill, just west of Napier, which is jointly owned by the Napier City and Hastings District councils.

Residents who have lived near the landfill for years have told Stuff they were used to the occasional bad smell a few times a year. But over the past year this stink has reached intolerable levels, and they want something done about it.

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Omarunui landfill, Hawke's Bay, has become the repository of unwanted stinking sheep pelts.

It's all due to sheep pelts.

Over the past year the price of pelts and wool has fallen to their lowest levels in many decades. It's led to meat processors and pelt processors sending pelts straight to landfills.

The increase has been so great that the Hawke's Bay landfill is struggling to cope with them.

In January and February last year the landfill received 77 truck movements, or 396 tonnes, of pelts and offal. Over the same period this year it received 333 truck movements, or 2202 tonnes.

A report going to the councils this month states the pelts were not easily compacted and need to be dealt with promptly to reduce any odour issues and to be mixed in with general municipal rubbish so that it can be compacted and covered.

Omarunui landfill, in Hawke's Bay, is just a few hundred metres from residents living on Swamp Rd, on the left of this image.

At times its difficult to keep up with the volume of pelts entering the site and have enough general rubbish to blend in with the pelts, the report said.

Staff have asked operators to find alternative disposal sites and to ensure that the pelts are not emitting a strong odour at the time theyre delivered, and to ensure they're delivered earlier in the day, but these measures have met with limited success.

Landfill staff were now considering whether to ban pelts from the landfill altogether. Other options include charging higher disposal rates to reflect the cost of dealing with the pelts.

Residents of Swamp Rd, just to the west of the landfill, have been plagued by the pelt odour for the past year.

Georgia May Gilbertson/Stuff
Staff at the landfill are struggling to deal with the amount of sheep pelts arriving at the site.

One man, whose house is just 200m from the landfill, said the smell could be really offensive.

The man, who would not be named, said Its not here today because theres a slight westerly, but if youd been here four oclock yesterday youd have smelt it really well. It smells like rotten sheep guts, he said.

Weve been here six years. We knew the landfill was there. We used to get a bit of odour occasionally, and we accept that, it was no problem at all. But that all changed when they started taking the pelts, he said.

You might get no smell for 10 days, then you might get three days in a row, he said.

The man had not made any odour complaints, but he would like to see the landfill cease accepting pelts.

Andrew Ritchie, of Hastings-based Lowe Corporation, which is one of New Zealand's largest tanneries, said the international market for pelts and wool was improving and they do not expect there to be a continuing need for disposal to landfill.

Pelts are turned into leather or suede and are exported for use in fashion garments and other items, but demand has plummeted in recent years, particularly due to Covid-19.


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