Aucklanders will get a new public park and an island volcano will be restored as part of a deal for the disposal of treated waste from Auckland's major wastewater treatment plant.
Watercare Services has entered an agreement with the Kelliher Charitable Trust that will see the quarried part of Puketutu Island in Manukau Harbour ``rehabilitated'' with treated ``biosolids'' from its nearby Mangere plant.
Subject to a successful application for resource consents, the solid byproduct of the wastewater treatment process will be carted over the causeway to the island.
In return, Watercare has agreed to pay the trust $25 million for a long-term lease.
Under the deal, parts of the island, which is private property, will be open to the public within six months of obtaining resource consents.
The long-term ownership of the island will ultimately pass to either the Auckland Regional Council for use as a regional park or to a charitable trust set up for that purpose, similar to the one that runs Cornwall Park.
``We believe this represents a wonderful opportunity for the people of Greater Auckland,'' says Watercare chairman Graeme Hawkins.
The island was bought by Dominion Breweries founder Sir Henry Kelliher in 1938 as his farm and home. Before his death in 1991, he transferred ownership to the trust which uses income from the island's assets for public good, including the Kelliher Arts Trust and Kelliher Economics Foundation.
Trust chairman Harry White said the decision to divest the island would allow the trust to create value for future charitable purposes while securing the long-term future of the island as a regional park.
Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee says the island had long been on its wish list and he was pleased at the progress that had been made towards the delivery of the region's 26th regional park. ``I regard this as a stunning initiative of great benefit to the wider community.''
The council is awaiting a decision on its appeal to the High Court over the Environment Court clearing the way for Living Earth to set up on the island, recycling 75,000 tonnes of garden waste a year.
Watercare must apply for resource consents from Manukau City Council and the regional council.
Local Maori welcome the prospect of turning back the clock on the island to its 1950s state - before thousands of tonnes of its scoria and basalt rock were removed for projects such as the nearby Auckland Airport.
Makaura Marae environmental spokesman Saul Roberts said the island was a cultural icon of the Tainui and Waiohua peoples.
``We admire any initiative taken regarding rehabilitation and restoration of the island.'' - by Wayne Thompson, NZ Herald