Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Homes could go for huge water-treatment plant in Oratia, in the Waitakere Ranges foothills

A quiet but fiercely caring and close community at the foothills of the Waitakere Ranges is fighting a proposal by Auckland's water company to take their homes for a $300 million-plus water-treatment plant.

The residents of Oratia are shocked at the prospect of 12 or 18 properties being taken at one of two proposed sites in Parker Rd covering 17ha and 15ha.

Watercare has identified the two sites on the narrow, dead-end road as possible locations for a new water-treatment plant to replace the 90-year-old Huia plant, which treats water from the dams in the Waitakere Ranges.

The real impact is it's tearing a part of the soul away from the community, the connection we have with the land, the connection we have with each other.
Paul Goldsmith, Oratia resident

The company has two other possible sites - rebuilding on the current site at Huia, which would take 20 per cent of the city's water out for at least two years, or alongside the site at Huia. Both these sites are in a protected ecological zone with native bush.

"You would go a long way before finding another community like it [Oratia] in Auckland. It's deeply rooted in its heritage with families who have been here for over 100 years," says Paul Goldsmith, whose links stretch back to the early 1900s when the area was settled by Dalmatian migrants who planted orchards and vineyards.

Goldsmith, whose feijoa orchard could be taken for the treatment plant, said the community was trying to establish a good working relationship with Watercare and its board to pave the way for a good consultation process and examining other possible solutions.

If Watercare does opt for Parker Rd, Goldsmith said it would be devastating for the community, with visual and sound impacts and trucking movements up and down the road.

"But the real impact is it's tearing a part of the soul away from the community, the connection we have with the land, the connection we have with each other," Goldsmith said.

Another resident, Andrew Treagust, said Parker Rd had neither the infrastructure nor the ability to absorb such an enormous commercial site.

"The traffic will directly pass by Oratia School and down peaceful side roads. It will scar and change the area and the people who live here forever," he said.

A Watercare spokesman said the company was considering the options and stressed the final plans and number of properties affected had still to be determined.

He said Watercare did not want to get offside with people. It wanted to work with them to enhance the project, which would cost $300m to $350m.

A decision on the site for the plant was expected to be made this year and a resource consent application could also be made this year, the spokesman said.

Watercare is holding a public meeting tonight at the Oratia Settlers Hall at 6pm to discuss its plans. For more information go to: www.watercare.co.nz and www.saveoratia.org.nz

What is Watercare up to?

The council's water company needs to replace the Huia water treatment plan, which is 90 years old. It plans to boost capacity by up to 15 per cent to meet growth in northwest Auckland. Huia and Waitakere water-treatment plants treat water from dams in the Waitakere Ranges which supply 19 per cent of the city's water.

Watercare has narrowed the options down to four - two in Oratia and two at Huia. It plans to make a decision this year and apply for resource consent.

Four options

Parker Rd (north site)
One of two sites at Oratia, affecting 12 properties.
Pros: Good elevation and plenty of open land.
Cons: Strong opposition from locals.

Parker Rd (south site))
One of two sites at Oratia, affecting 18 properties.
Pros: Good elevation and plenty of open land.
Cons: Strong opposition from locals.

Huia Water Treatment site
Pros: Site of existing treatment plan.
Cons: Would take 20 per cent of Auckland's water out for more than two years. Includes native bush in a protected ecological zone.

Manuka Rd
Alongside Huia treatment plant.
Pros: Close to existing plant.
Cons: Contains native bush in a protected ecological zone.

- NZ Herald

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