Have your say on sewerage issue

By Peter de Graaf


The council wants to talk crap with Kerikeri ratepayers.


Before we're accused of stating the obvious - or being gratuitously offensive - ''Let's Talk Crap'' is an innovative campaign by the Far North District Council to stir up interest in Kerikeri's sewage problems.


Over the past 25 years the town has far outgrown its infrastructure. Whole suburbs, and even parts of the town centre, still rely on septic tanks. The council estimates that 10-15 per cent of septic systems are failing, contaminating people's gardens, waterways and the Bay of Islands.


A $30 million expansion of Paihia's treatment plant to take in Kerikeri had been planned since the 1980s but was shelved after the economic downturn and the financial disaster that was Kaipara District Council's Mangawhai sewerage scheme.


The council is now looking to expand its sewerage network to bring in central Kerikeri, Riverview, Reinga Rd and other areas, possibly using small community-based treatment stations rather than one big central plant.


Whatever the council does it won't come cheap, so it wants to make sure Kerikeri ratepayers have their say.


Because getting people interested in sewerage has proved difficult in the past, the council hired Debs Ryder of Kerikeri firm Mad Ideas to come up with an eye-catching campaign. It has so far involved placing dozens of toilets around town, a talking toilet, a toilet paper mascot called Rolley and free toilet paper in an informative wrapper.


Mayor Wayne Brown said doing nothing was not an option.


''Keeping your septic tank system may seem like a cheap option, but you need to consider what it will cost you to replace it in the long term as well as the hassle of maintaining it.''


People also needed to consider which option best protected Kerikeri and the Bay of Islands from pollution.


On-site systems such as septic tanks had a limited lifespan and needed careful management to operate effectively. It only took one failing septic tank to cause a disease outbreak, he said.


Deputy Mayor Ann Court said the council had received plenty of positive feedback about its eye-catching publicity campaign.


''Like most councils, we struggle to involve the community in our decision-making so we needed a campaign that would grab people's attention. We've certainly done that.''


Ms Court said the council had tried to keep the campaign as cost-effective as possible, for example by using donated timber and old toilet bowls for the displays.


She urged Kerikeri property owners to find out about their options and make a submission by August 16.


''This is one of the most important decisions Kerikeri has faced in recent times so it is vital that we hear from as many people as possible,'' she said.


* See www.letstalkcrap.co.nz for more information about the three options, the costs and areas affected. You can also pick up brochures from council offices and longdrops in Kerikeri (next to High Voltage surf shop, at the Bypass/Waipapa Rd roundabout, and the SH10/Kerikeri Rd roundabout).

You can make a submission or vote online or by text message. If a majority back a reticulated sewerage system, the council will develop a detailed proposal for the 2014-15 Draft Annual Plan. Kerikeri residents, not the Far North in general, will pay for the scheme, which could be in line for a 27 per cent subsidy from the Ministry of Health.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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