Log In

Reset Password

More time for investigation and consideration of sensitive waste

Opinion Piece

A decision to continue working on the thorny issue of whether mortuary waste should be removed from the city’s wastewater stream before it is discharged into a wetlands system hopefully means the pros and cons will be properly weighed and concerns allayed.

The issue came before the wastewater management committee, which has the responsibility of overseeing the accord and resource consent reached in 2006 — after another council committee, environmental planning and regulations, declined to move forward with a recommendation to continue investigation of the issue.

The debate was quite heated at that meeting, raising fears that it could become a divisive topic and even threaten the wastewater accord that prevented a costly Environment Court hearing and enabled the biological trickling filter plant to be commissioned in 2010 at a huge saving.

The issue is a complicated one that is wider than mortuary waste. A number of other fluids would be included if a decision was made to separate this kind of waste before discharge into the wetlands.

Instead of launching into a fresh debate, the wastewater committee took the measured step of instructing staff to continue investigating the sensitive waste issue and advise a project scope at its next meeting.

The strong Maori contingent at the wastewater management committee were prepared to take this action, with speakers acknowledging that it was an emotional one but more information was required. It is not only Maori who would want to see sensitive waste separated from a discharge for cultural reasons.

There is a lot of money at stake here because if the issue was to derail the wetlands project, which is in the midst of a promising trial, it would cost the district millions in having to move to a more expensive form of treatment such as UV radiation.

The resource consent conditions require the council to come up with a decision on the next stage of waste treatment by December. The clock is ticking and council staff have a big task ahead.