Rotorua District Council and CNI Iwi Holdings have signed a deed which will see an end to the spraying of treated wastewater in the Whakarewarewa Forest by the end of 2019.
Following years of clashing through legal channels around the disposal of wastewater (paruparu) in the forest, both parties have now pledged to work together, a position they believe will strengthen their relationship and future outcomes for the Rotorua community.
"This has always been about the environmental impact on our land and our waterways," said Anaru Te Amo, CNI director and chairman of Te Komiti Nui O Ngati Whakaue Trust.
"It's our belief the new leadership at Council has shown a new approach to working alongside iwi land owners and we are very happy to have signed this deed to work together on the wastewater solution for the Rotorua community.
"The fact the current Land Treatment System will be decommissioned by the end of 2019, two years earlier than the current consent, is a great outcome for the landowners and the community," said Alan Skipwith, CNI director and chairman of Te Pumautanga O Te Arawa Trust.
"Rotorua District Council has taken this proactive step and has said it is willing to push the boundaries on finding an alternative for Rotorua's wastewater discharge problem."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick described the signing of the deed as a significant day for Rotorua's future.
"This deed binds both council and CNI to work together constructively in accordance with the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, to identify, develop and commission an alternative to the Land Treatment System," said Mrs Chadwick.
"This is hugely important for our district.
We must find a solution for dealing with Rotorua's future wastewater that is both scientifically and culturally acceptable. To be able to work alongside tangata whenua on this solution will be of real benefit to our district.
"Working in partnership with iwi and finding sustainable living solutions are among the big drivers which will help achieve the vision of Rotorua 2030 we set with community late last year."
The deed allows both parties to engage in good faith and sets out a timeline of actions to pursue a better wastewater alternative for Rotorua.
The current Land Treatment System is a vital piece of infrastructure that is expensive to operate, much less effective than when first implemented, and is unsustainable. It was established in the early 1990s, and the Whakarewarewa Forest was vested in CNI Iwi Holdings Ltd in 2009 following the CNI Settlement, a result of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement the previous year.
CNI Iwi Holdings Ltd is a collective of eight iwi from the Central North Island.
The adopted milestones and timeframes in the deed are:
November 2014: Detailed feasibility and pilot trial (dependent on Project Steering Committee approval of preferred option).
November 2015: Preliminary design and Assessment of Environmental Effects preparation (dependent on Project Steering Committee approval of preferred option).
December 2016: Resource consent application and approval (however, no allowance is made for any Environment Court appeal and hearings).
March 2018: Detailed design and tendering.
October 2019: Construction and commission.
December 2019: De-commissioning of existing Land Treatment System.