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Wastewater treatment one of many challenges for new council

Opinion Piece

Some major challenges lie ahead for the new Gisborne District Council as it begins its 2017 meetings tomorrow.

It is too early to determine what the effect of three new councillors will be, but the departure of conservative-minded Roger Haisman, Craig Bauld and Alan Davidson will alter the leaning of council dynamics.

The elephant in the room for the whole three-year term is the next stage of the city wastewater treatment scheme.

The council had hung its hat on the promising wetlands process that would prevent having to build a second biological trickling filter plant, at a cost of about $40 million. The wetlands had a budgeted cost of $12m, but the council hit a major obstacle late last year when it was given estimates of up to $60m for a project that would also require a large amount of productive land.

It has all year to wrestle with this one before deciding what sort of resource consent to apply for, but it represents a major threat to the goal of restricting rate rises to not more than 2 percent.

The major controversy of the previous term is probably behind it as the new administration building goes up, but there are plenty of potential quicksand patches.

Relationships with fully-owned subsidiary Gisborne Holdings Ltd and Eastland Community Trust will require some attention. Important decisions are needed over the amalgamation and future direction of Activate Tairawhiti and Tourism Eastland.

Then there are the usual host of controversial or testing subjects that are likely to divide the councillors’ views. Include in that two major environmental issues — the district’s first freshwater plan and the proposed Makauri aquifer recharge. It is time too to resolve the issue of a local leadership board for Turanga Maori, which has been around since 2009.

There is also the list of subjects that divide the community, such as place names, inner harbour boat parking and whether to have free parking in the central city.

The 14 councillors and the Mayor have a lot ahead of them before they settle into their new waka in Fitzherbert Street.