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Wastewater scheme could increase rates

FACED with a potential rate increase of up to 25 percent to upgrade the city’s wastewater system, Mayor Meng Foon has called on Gisborne District Council to approach the Eastland Community Trust for financial assistance.

His comments came as the council yesterday approved five options to be released for a pre-consultation process for the upgrade.

Mr Foon also suggested that the council should look again at the existing resource consents that govern the wastewater system. There was still the opportunity to consider seeking variations to the consents.

But tangata whenua representative Pene Brown said they would strongly resist that.

Mr Foon said when he became mayor in 2001, wastewater was the big topic. For 10 years the council just did general maintenance and built the wastewater treatment plant.

Whatever option the council took now, the minimum rate increase would be 10 percent, the maximum 25 percent.

That was without other things like the Waipaoa River control scheme or the Makauri aquifer recharge.

“I am very concerned at the debt level that is projected,” he said.

Interest rates would not stay low.

“The other thing is that we are the beneficiary of the Eastland Community Trust. It might be that we need to have a conversation with them in terms of support."

The trust was established in 1992 and had 55 years of operation left.

Even at the current annual dividend of $10 million, that was half a billion dollars.

“What on earth is the entity going to do with half a billion dollars?

“It would be best to gradually release it and benefit the community so we can all live in this region and enjoy it."

Mr Foon asked if the council could change the conditions of its consent, but lifelines director David Wilson said the staff would strongly recommend against that. They would lose in the Environment Court.

Patience being testedMr Brown said he had sat patiently listening to the first three options and now was hearing a fourth one that tried his patience.

Tangata whenua would strongly resist that option if the council proceeded with it.

“You have a resource consent which you must comply with,” he said.

Rehette Stoltz said she liked the way that the project was like Lego. The various components could be added over time.

Graeme Thomson was concerned at the terms of reference that had been used for the recommendations. He referred to a report which said the discharge was well within the confines of the existing consent.

Brian Wilson said the council needed a much clearer picture of what the costs would be. What would they be paying extra with all the other programmes that were coming?

The public and the council could not give meaningful feedback until they had the full picture.

Pay Seymour was concerned about assumptions being made about the proposed wetland. What would happen in heavy rain?

Also, growers could not use water for irrigation that included human waste.

Malcolm MacLean said the council should start at the bottom and work its way up. Andy Cranston said the council should factor in what the impact of the DrainWise infrastructure programme was.

Karen Fenn was concerned about getting the consultation with the community right and making sure they understood it.

Larry Foster said the city’s outfall was the third-worst performing of the 35 in the country. Water was the new gold and the council was putting a lot of eggs in their basket with the Makauri aquifer recharge.

The goal had been to eventually have the outfall decommissioned.

There was a real opportunity to be strategic and forward-thinking. He had been converted to this project and the possibilities from it were huge.

Shannon Dowsing said the building block process the council was going through was an ideal solution. Without taking cost into consideration, the desire was to take the wastewater from the outfall.

If the council could find ways of getting alternative use from this water, that was where it wanted to be.

“It is not about the money on the table today, it is about what we can plan for the future."

Meredith Akuhata-Brown reiterated the region’s cultural aspirations. A large number of people relied on the sea to feed them. It would be devastating if microbes affected that.

It was important to be future thinkers as the next generation would inherit their decision. As a ratepayer, she was happy to pay a bit more to have cleaner water to swim in.

Bill Burdett said he hoped common sense would prevail and all the options would go out for pre-consultation.

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