3 January 2015
A preferred sewerage scheme option for Rotoma and East Rotoiti has received the approval of the Rotorua Lakes Council.
The sewerage scheme is needed to protect the lakes from phosphorus and nitrogen input from septic tanks and to reduce the risk septic tanks in low-lying areas pose to public health.
“The preferred option put to Council for approval is a combination of a number of options we consulted on, and is a compromise on which the Rotoma/Rotoiti Sewerage Steering Committee (RRSSC) was able to reach unanimous agreement,” the committee’s independent chair, Ian McLean says.
“The next step is the design and firm costing of the preferred option, and an application for resource consents under the Resource Management Act. At that stage the community will again be consulted. If all goes well, the scheme will then be constructed.
“We’ve worked very closely with iwi and community groups in the two lake communities to find a solution that takes into account community views. Important factors were cost, better lake water quality, public heath, resilience and cultural considerations,” Mr McLean says.
The preferred option was recommended to the Rotorua Lakes Council by the Rotoma/Rotoiti Sewerage Steering Committee (RRSSC) with input from a technical advisory group. It is based on a local wastewater treatment plant and land disposal system. At Rotoma connections are to be by on-site low pressure grinder pumps. At Rotoiti a trial will be done with on-site Biolytix wastewater pre-treatment units connected to the treatment plant. If successful, Biolytix units will be used there, and if not, low-pressure grinder pumps, such as those at Rotoma, will be used.
The scheme will benefit from subsidies from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry for the Environment, and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. Part of the latter is a special subsidy of $4 million applied for by the RRSSC and just included in the regional draft Long Term Plan. Rotorua District Council policy is to subsidise each household by $1,500 and to carry the cost of spreading households’ capital cost over 25 years.
Mr McLean says without these subsidies, ratepayers would not be able to bear the cost of the scheme.
The RRSSC has recommended that if a land disposal site cannot be found within the lakes’ catchments, the proposed scheme would default to all properties being connected by low pressure grinder pumps and piped back to the Rotorua Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The RRSSC includes community representatives from both iwi and ratepayer groups. The Rotorua Lakes Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Ministry of Health are also represented. The committee was established in December 2013 after the District Council was forced to consider the proposed project afresh, following a successful challenge to the Environment Court by iwi who were strongly opposed to an initial proposal that involved a land disposal system on Manawahe Road.
“We had to start again to work with iwi and other community groups to find the best practicable solution that met community goals,” Mr McLean says.
“We’ve worked with iwi and other stakeholders and a long list of options was narrowed down to seven possible options, which became the basis for public consultation. The options were evaluated by the technical advisory group and public feedback was obtained. Consultation meetings and hui were held.
“Iwi members of the RRSSC provided strong input throughout the process and a cultural assessment, which was factored into the decision,” he says.
Issues still to be determined include the exact boundaries of different parts of the scheme, the precise nature of the land treatment system, and the site of the treatment plant.
“The decisions made by the Rotorua Lakes Council to approve the preferred option and by the Regional Council to grant extra subsidy cap off a year of hard work by the RRSSC,” Mr McLean says.
“These decisions are great news for the lakes and for the local community.”