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Implementing city's wastewater treatment upgrade

Opinion Piece

A recent update for councillors on wastewater management options for Gisborne City says a suitable project manager has been appointed to ensure the treatment plant upgrade is delivered on time and within budget, and initial iwi consultation on the use of recycled water has been completed.

The report says that even after the council decision in February to fast-track this upgrade, a risk remains of non-compliance with its existing resource consent — which requires a further disinfection stage by 2020, investigation of options for alternative use and disposal of our wastewater, and best endeavours to meet cultural objectives to stop discharging into the bay; “the focus continues to be on implementing clarification, solids removal and UV disinfection as fast as practical”.

Engineering consultancy Beca has been commissioned to design the first stage of the wastewater plant upgrade, estimated to cost $24.4m, and has begun this work.

The $3.39m budgeted for the project this financial year will mostly be spent in the third or fourth quarter, with procurement processes initially followed by purchases of equipment and services. The council will take on debt to fund the full cost of stage one, with the increase in rates to pay it back over time starting from 2023.

Stage two is alternative use and disposal (AUD) and, once a viable use has been identified for the treated wastewater, construction of a wastewater wetland.

The $75,000 annual budget for AUD investigations has been used for iwi consultation, planning an overall engagement process, and gaining a better understanding of what is being done nationally and internationally in terms of AUD “with a view to using this information to overcome local constraints”. A funding application has also been submitted to the Provincial Development Unit “to progress this work more significantly”.

The report says plans and budgets for constructing a wetland will be prepared once a use has been found for the treated wastewater, however the council will start considering where the wetland should be built; “This is a complex issue, which will require careful planning.”

The separation of mortuary wastewater is linked to AUD, says the report, as its removal is seen as “critical to eliminating perception and cultural barriers to use of the treated wastewater”. A draft project plan has been developed to progress this work, and council staff have started early discussions with key stakeholders.