The Rotorua Lakes Council wants feedback on proposals for future wastewater treatment and discharge in Rotorua.

The community-led Project Steering Committee, set up to consider potential options, supports a proposed upgrade to the city's wastewater treatment plant.

An upgrade would result in the best quality treated wastewater in New Zealand.

However the committee is not yet unanimous regarding where the treated wastewater should be discharged and the council wants community opinion to help with the decision-making.

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There will be two public meetings and two site visits to the wastewater treatment plant and preferred nearby discharge location.

 Rotorua Waste Water Treatment Plant.
Rotorua Waste Water Treatment Plant.

People can have their say at the meetings or via email, in writing, or online.

The Steering Committee was formed in 2014 after Rotorua Lakes Council and CNI Limited signed an agreement to remove the treated wastewater spraying system in Whakarewarewa Forest by December 2019.

The committee, which included council representatives and an independent chairman, was tasked with finding an acceptable alternative which would contribute to improving water quality in Lake Rotorua, meet the cultural needs of tangata whenua, safeguard public health, and be cost-effective.

Deputy Mayor Dave Donaldson, a council representative on the Steering Committee, said there would be cost implications involved so it was important the community had a say.

The preferred discharge option is to discharge to earth contact beds on the Sanatorium Reserve near the treatment plant, then via a cascading channel into Lake Rotorua at Puarenga Bay.

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The alternative option is to pipe to a new land-based discharge system at a location elsewhere in the catchment.

The proposed plant upgrade and preferred discharge option would cost $29m and would fit within council's existing debt cap and would have no impact on targeted rates.

The proposed plant upgrade and alternative discharge option would require land, and piping treated wastewater there from the treatment plant, increasing the cost of the project to about $54m.

That would exceed council's existing debt cap and increase the targeted rate.

"We need a sustainable solution that addresses cultural concerns, contributes to improving our environment and also caters for future growth. And we need to balance those factors with the need to be cost-effective," said Mr Donaldson.

Aerial shot of Rotorua and Sulpher Bay. Photo/Ben Fraser
Aerial shot of Rotorua and Sulpher Bay. Photo/Ben Fraser

"There has been a lot of work involved in getting to this stage - it has been a very robust process. Council now wants input from the community before making a final decision."

Steering Committee chairman Warren Webber said the committee considered a range of options.

"The wider Rotorua community recognised that the management of wastewater was a community issue. We all contribute to the problem and needed to also contribute to the solution."

"The steering group of key stakeholders including iwi, community representatives, and council staff has worked through a wide range of treatment and discharge options and evolved to a preferred option we believe is pragmatic, cost-effective, and technically robust," he said.

Feedback will be considered by the Steering Committee in its report to council's Strategy, Policy and Finance committee in June. That committee will be asked to make a recommendation for the full council to consider at the end of June.

How to have your say - He aha ō whakaaro?

- Marae hui - Saturday 7 May, 10am-12noon, Te Papaiouru Marae, Mataiawhea St, Ohinemutu;
- Public meeting - Wednesday 11 May, 7-9pm, Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre, Fenton St;
- Site visit - Thursday 12 May, 4pm, wastewater treatment plant and Te Arikiroa - Sanatorium Reserve. Bookings are required. Please RSVP to info@rotorualc.nz or phone 348 4199;
-Site visit - Saturday 14 May, 10am, wastewater treatment plant and Te Arikiroa - Sanatorium Reserve.

Bookings required. Please RSVP to info@rotorualc.nz or phone 348 4199;

-Email feedback to info@rotorualc.nz marked 'Wastewater options for Rotorua district';
- Send a letter to 'Wastewater options for Rotorua district', Rotorua Lakes Council, Private Bay 3029, Rotorua Mail Centre, Rotorua 3046;
- Drop off written feedback to Council's customer centre, 1061 Haupapa Street, marked 'Wastewater options for Rotorua district';
- Fill out the online feedback form by going to council's website - rotorualakescouncil.nz - and clicking on "HaveYourSay" on the home page.


BACKGROUND:

Treated wastewater has been discharged in Whakarewarewa Forest since 1991 but there have been ongoing tangata whenua concerns regarding the impact of the scheme on the Puarenga Stream catchment.

In June 2014 Council and CNI Iwi Holdings signed a deed which will see an end to forest spraying of treated wastewater by the end of 2019.

A Project Steering Committee was set up to identify and evaluate alternatives and recommend a preferred option to Council. It received advice and support from a technical advisory group, along with 28 investigations and reports, Council engineers and a cultural assessment sub-committee.

The Steering Committee's goal was to find solutions that would see treated wastewater discharged to the environment at a standard that would:

- Be life-sustaining and restore the mauri of the water
- Meet standards consistent with the National Policy Statement for Freshwater
- Satisfy regulatory requirements and secure resource consents in partnership with the community and tangata whenua
- Achieve a high level of public health and environmental protection
- Be the best practicable option for Rotorua's future wastewater management.

In November 2014 the Steering Committee consulted the public on 5 shortlisted alternative options and following further evaluation of those options, identified a 6th option.

Further evaluation led to options involving new land treatment system being eliminated due to the prohibitive cost and the difficulty of acquiring potential sites. The focus went on plant upgrade options that would provide the highest level of treatment of wastewater.