Four Tauranga marae could be allowed to link into the city's sewerage system after the council agreed to hook up Matapihi's two marae into the Southern Pipeline.

Connecting Bethlehem's two marae and marae at Waimapu and Te Maunga will be considered by the council next year.

The four marae were all near council wastewater pipelines. The city's two remaining marae still on septic tanks were considered too far from the closest sewer - they were at Welcome Bay.

The council this week backed spending $1.74 million over the next two years to reticulate Matapihi's two marae, houses in the marae zones, the school and kohanga reo.

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Ongoing operational costs would be $190,000 a year.

Council asset and infrastructure planning manager Graeme Jelley said the two marae and kohunga reo would not be charged a connection fee, leaving householders in the marae zone each paying a $500 connection fee if they hooked up within 12 months.

Otherwise they would pay the same $18,000 connection fee offered to householders along the route of the sewer serving the two marae.

All Matapihi connections would pay the council's standard wastewater fee of $380 a year.

Mr Jelley defended the council from community criticism that city ratepayers would end up subsidising Matapihi. He said that what was being proposed for the marae zones was very similar to when the sewer was extended through Papamoa.

"Residents in Papamoa were required to construct the connection pipe between their house and the council sewer at a cost of a few hundred dollars. Otherwise the cost of the sewer system was carried by the wastewater system as a whole, ie ratepayers."

Mayor Stuart Crosby said there had been an issue of contamination in Matapihi because of poor management of existing septic tanks. "These things do happen."

Most councillors supported connecting Matapihi's marae on the basis that removing septic tanks helped the harbour's ecology.

Councillor Steve Morris opposed because Matapihi was a rural area.

He said the council did not provide infrastructure to rural areas because the costs were not recovered from users to any significant extent. They can't have the benefits of living in a rural area as-well-as have the benefits of living in a town, unless they paid.

"It has opened up a can of worms," Mr Morris said.

Councillor John Robson argued that Matapihi was different because the council was building a trunk main through the rural community. "On balance it works for the city. The benefits to the community and the harbour outweigh the pure principle."

Community opinion on Matapihi wastewater plan:

* 12 people supported the proposal

* 4 conditionally supported

* 2 opposed