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Committee plugs for two of the wetland options

Opinion Piece

The Wastewater Management Committee has sent the council something of a curveball by deciding to forward two options for new wastewater treatment facilities for the city, and rejecting the two cheapest options — that do not involve a wetland — council staff had included with an eye to other pressing needs the council has.

Set up to oversee this work and restoration of the mauri of the bay, the committee found itself evenly divided between its council and iwi representatives. The four councillors favoured option three — that would add ultraviolet treatment, a clarifier and use a 12 hectare wetland — of five before the committee, while the four iwi members wanted option five — the highest level of upgrade, which would meet their longtime goal of closing down the submarine outfall pipeline into Poverty Bay.

Option three would take human waste out of the bay, except in an emergency, but treated industrial waste would continue to flow in.

The two options are among the three most favoured by the public in a survey carried out by the council.

Chairman Bill Burdett found himself caught in the middle. He wanted the committee to forward one option to the council, but acknowledged that Maori had been patient ever since the original agreement that ended years of Environment Court cases in 2006.

One of the big problems for the council is affordability at a time when it has huge demands in other areas, particularly roading. Option three would add $324 per city household a year to rates, option five $383 (compared to $250 for the cheapest option).

The options now go to a council workshop on December 7 at which they want to work out a budget for the 10-year plan. The decision on which option will go into the draft Long-Term Plan is to be made at a council meeting on December 14.

One point made during the debate at the committee was that option three would be a stepping stone towards option five. Such a compromise could be a lifeline for the council in the meantime, but will only postpone the eventual solution for all those who want our waste out of the bay for good.