Consultation starting on alternative to forest wastewater spraying

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7/11/2014 12:00:00 a.m.

7 November 2014

Public consultation begins this month on alternatives to the spraying of Rotorua’s treated wastewater in Whakarewarewa forest.

Earlier this year Rotorua District Council and Whakarewarewa Forest land owner CNI Iwi Holdings Ltd signed a Deed of Understanding which requires the land treatment system to be gone from the forest by December 2019. The deed was prompted by concern about the possible environmental impact on iwi land and local waterways.

The current system has been in place since 1991, discharging treated wastewater from the Rotorua Wastewater Treatment Plant, wastewater which is of the highest quality in New Zealand in terms of removal of nitrogen.

However the existing forest spraying system is considered unsustainable for the long term. It is now much less effective than when first implemented and has been of concern to iwi stakeholders in terms of the environmental impact on their land and waterways.

The two parties are now working together to find a suitable alternative and three public meetings are being held this month – one at Maketu on 8 November and two more in Rotorua on 22 and 25 November.

A project steering committee was formed earlier this year comprising representatives of iwi and other stakeholders, with Lakes Water Quality Society’s Warren Webber elected as chair.

The committee has adopted goals aimed at finding an alternative to the current land treatment system which will contribute to improving Lake Rotorua’s water quality, meet the cultural needs of tangata whenua, safeguard public health and be cost-effective.

A technical advisory group has also been established to provide technical advice to the steering committee, and a cultural assessment sub-committee was set up in September to guide cultural considerations.

Mr Webber said community support will be vital for deciding on an alternative and the committee is engaging with the community as part of that process.

“We need to identify the best option for Rotorua’s future wastewater management and we have a number of options we want to present to the public for their feedback.

“Any alternative location for treated water discharge will need to meet the environmental, cultural and economic needs of our community while also allowing for potential future growth,” said Mr Webber.

“It also needs to be sustainable in the long term, and affordable, so we need to get it right.

Public consultation

  • First round of public consultation in November 2014:
    • 10am-noon Saturday 8 November at Whakaue Marae, Maketu
    • 10am-noon Saturday 22 November at Te Papaiouru Marae, Ohinemutu
    • 7 - 9pm Tuesday 25 November at Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre
  • Public open day at the Rotorua wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) on 22 November 2014
  •  There will be a second round of consultation in 2015
  •  People who want to be kept directly informed of project developments or want to meet with RDC for further discussion can complete the registration of interest and consultation form on www.rdc.govt.nz.

About the land treatment system

  • Commissioned in 1991 and at that time removal of Nitrogen was very efficient
  • By the late 1990s efficiency had dropped with occasional breaches of the 30tN consent limit in the early 2000s
  • Improvements at the WWTP and land treatment system (LTS) management since then have kept discharge to Waipa Stream close to consent limits
  •  Water saturation has become an issue in some areas
  • The WWTP and LTS have removed, on average, 275tN from raw sewage every year since 1991.
Page reviewed: 07 Nov 2014 12:00am