A Maori blessing of workers laying the Southern Pipeline along Matapihi Peninsula has drawn flak from respected kaumatua and former school principal Charlie Timutimu.
"What has this world come to?" he asked after witnessing last Tuesday's blessing.
Trenching is due to begin today to lay the sewage pipeline which will largely follow Matapihi Rd before it branches down an unformed road and crosses SH29 to link into the Te Maunga treatment works.
Mr Timutimu said he was "totally upset" by the kaumatua who carried out the ceremony.
"Not only was it against Maori protocols but it was done to please the council's iwi consultation processes."
Maori did not bless plumbers who installed toilets in their houses, he said.
"This is what the workers are building, a pipeline carrying human waste products and excrement. The whole Maori community of Matapihi are against this project that the council has thrown at us, but our protests have gone on deaf ears."
It is the last big section of the $104 million project to take waste water from the rapidly expanding southern suburbs of Tauranga and relieve pressure on the sewerage system that flows to the Chapel St treatment works.
Ngai Te Rangi paramount chief Kihi Ngatai, who was not invited to the ceremony, said he would have agreed with Mr Timutimu if it was the pipeline that had been blessed. A blessing for a pipeline that carried excrement would not have been protocol. "We never do karakia for things like that."
But blessing the workers was different. "Blessing of the workers is okay with me, but blessing the pipeline - that I am not in favour of."
Mr Ngatai assumed the blessing was for the safety of the workers although he was not sure because he was not there.
Meanwhile, Matapihi residents have wrung a major concession from the council which originally opposed installing a place where the largely Maori-owned peninsula could in the future hook into the pressurised pipeline.
Matapihi Ratepayers and Residents Association chairman Greg Milne said the junction point where the peninsula's sewage could be injected into the pipeline was near where the road crossed the railway line.
"If we have to have the pipeline then at least we have the capacity to tap into it, if that is what the people of Matapihi want."
Matapihi to Te Maunga section of the Southern Pipeline
Cost: $8 million
Construction time: One year
Contractor: HEB Construction