Tauranga City Council chief executive Garry Poole has denied a link between the plan to connect parts of Matapihi to mains sewerage and resolving a Maori land ownership challenge along the route of the Southern Pipeline.
He was responding to questions from the Bay of Plenty Times after the council backed a financial package that would see ratepayers pick up the $1.74 million cost to connect areas of Matapihi into the pipeline currently under construction through the largely Maori-owned peninsula.
The council yesterday voted 10-1 in favour of the financial arrangements in which Waikari Marae, Hungahungatoroa Marae and Matapihi's school and kohanga reo would not carry any of the capital costs to hook into the sewer main.
Read more: $1.74m connection for Matapihi
The decision coincides with ongoing council discussions on ownership of the section of the pipeline route where it leaves Matapihi Rd and goes across country to emerge at SH29 near Baypark.
The council says the route was along an unformed legal road but adjacent landowners and others in Matapihi's community have disputed this.
Yesterday's decision was against the backdrop of years of Maori opposition to the project because of cultural sensitivity around human waste being carried up the middle of their rohe (tribal area).
The financial package also extended to the 60 homeowners living in Matapihi's two marae zones who will also not have to pay a capital connection fee. If they agreed to meet the scheme's remaining charges by June 30 next year, each householder would be liable for a discounted city-wide development contribution of $500.
However if agreement was not reached with the householders until after June 30 they would have to pay the full development contribution of $3109.
The report said the scheme would increase the city's wastewater operational costs by $190,000 a year.
Mr Poole said the land ownership issue could end up in courts although it would not need to be an adversarial situation. The best way would be for the court to come to a view.
He said the land issue and Matapihi connecting into the pipeline were separate issues. Community access to the pipeline had arisen at the start of the project whereas the paper road was a recent issue.
Councillor Gail McIntosh voted against the proposal.
Puhirake Ihaka, one of the Matapihi hapu representatives said that the decision was a step forward.