Forest discharge alternative proposed



13 October 2015

A proposed alternative to the spraying of treated wastewater in Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa Forest is ready to be presented to the public.

Rotorua Lakes Council’s Strategy, Policy & Finance committee will tomorrow [Wednesday, 14 October] consider a recommendation that the council undertake public consultation on a preliminary preferred option. If approved by the committee, the recommendation will go to the full Council for a decision.

The preferred option is to upgrade the city’s wastewater treatment plant to a full Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) Plant, add an ultraviolet disinfection system and potentially discharge the highly treated wastewater to an existing drain at Te Arikiroa (Sulphur Bay). A preferred discharge location will be subject to further assessment of environmental and cultural impacts and further discussion with iwi.

Rotorua has one of the best wastewater treatment systems in New Zealand and upgrading it to a full MBR system, coupled with an additional disinfection system, would provide a “double barrier” system and make the city’s wastewater even cleaner.

The proposed option is the result of 18 months’ work by a project steering committee set up to help the council find an alternative to the current Whakarewarewa Forest wastewater discharge system. The forest system is not sustainable and an alternative must be found by the end of 2019, as agreed between Rotorua Lakes Council and the forest’s iwi owners.

The estimated capital cost of the project is $27 million. The estimated cost over 35 years, including the capital cost, operation and maintenance costs and interest – based on current value – is $37 million.

The capital cost would be funded through debt – as is normal practice for such projects – with operational costs funded through targeted rates. The project has been allowed for in the council’s Long-term Plan 2015-2025.

The steering committee, which includes iwi and other community representatives, was tasked with finding the best practicable option which would acceptably meet the cultural needs of tangata whenua, restore the mauri (spirit) of the water and its life-supporting capacity, contribute to improving water quality in Lake Rotorua and safeguard public health.

The proposed public consultation will include a series of meetings with iwi and other key stakeholders and information for the public. The steering committee will consider feedback from consultation to come up with a final preferred option for Council to consider.

What has happened so far:
February 2014: Project steering committee including representatives from iwi and other key stakeholders established to help Council find an alternative to the Whakarewarewa Forest wastewater discharge system;

June 2014: Rotorua Lakes Council and CNI Iwi Holdings sign deed agreeing discharge in the forest will cease by the end of 2019;

November 2014-October 2015: Public consultation on five shortlisted alternatives followed by further evaluation of options and identification of a new, sixth option (the preliminary preferred option);
Scoping process results in dismissal of options involving land disposal because of the prohibitive cost involved and the potential difficulty in acquiring sites;

Focus on further investigating sixth option and agreement on this as the preliminary preferred option, subject to feedback from iwi and the community.

If Council approves the recommendation (with no amendments) to present the preliminary preferred option to the public:
October-November 2015: Public information process;

November-December 2015: Steering committee to consider feedback from public information process to agree on a final preferred option;

December 2015: Final preferred option expected to be put to Council for decision.

Tomorrow’s Strategy, Policy & Finance committee meeting will be held in the Council Chamber at Rotorua Lakes Council, starting at 9.30am.

It will be livestreamed on YouTube.

Follow this link to see the full agenda.


Page reviewed: 13 Oct 2015 12:30pm