A proposed solution for Central Hawke's Bay's wastewater woes could be 18 months away, the Hawke's Bay Regional Council was told yesterday.
Central Hawke's Bay mayor Alex Walker and the district council's chief executive, Monique Davidson, discussed the findings of an independent review into the CHB district's wastewater treatment plants, and their next steps, at the regional council's last public meeting of the year.
In the past few years there had been breaches in the plants' operating conditions, and the regional council prosecuted the CHB council this year.
This recent Wastewater Specialists review confirmed the Waipawa and Waipukurau plants would never meet their resource consent conditions. It has been estimated anywhere between $11.9 million and $36m might need to be spent to make them compliant.
So yesterday Ms Walker said the council was working hard to deal with the various problems and come up with a "50-, possibly 100-year decision".
"I don't want to have to pass this issue on to anyone else," she said. "We are leading a fresh process to look at all this information and come up with intergenerational investment decisions."
Ms Davidson said they needed to think about short- and medium-term actions – such as the odour issue - but also look further ahead.
"No matter what tinkering we're doing around the edges, whatever short-term actions we take, based on the advice we're getting, will not allow us to be fully compliant.
"So we need to come up with a longer-term solution, and we need to come up with a solution that focuses on a wastewater strategy for Central Hawke's Bay ... and how does that meet the environmental standards we as a community want to achieve."
The review had made a number of recommendations.
Regional councillors questioned the pair on future proposals, costs, and timeframes. With the CHB Council yet to proceed with full community consultation, there were no firm costings, or future options.
It was hoped a proposed solution and cost would be included in an amended Long Term Plan, which the community would be re-consulted on in 18 months.
As well as community input, Ms Walker said their council was hoping to develop a partnership with the regional council.
Acting meeting chair Rick Barker noted HBRC would stay true to its regulatory role, but said it supported CHB council in finding a long-term answer as "we've had too many short-term solutions".
In the interim HBRC chief executive James Palmer said there was no public interest in their council taking further compliance action.
"[I'm satisfied] there is a commitment here by this council to get on and resolve the issues and they are working as fast within their means as possible to bring a resolution."
The review's recommendations for short-term improvements included installing a misting system to neutralise smell, to working closely with industries to understand processing capacity, and discuss cost implications, and agree on pre-treatment options.
The reports recommended solutions were either an activated sludge treatment – estimated at between $11.9m and $20.2m – or a $36m discharge-to-land option, which could be introduced for both sites either separately or jointly.
The plants were commissioned in 2012 for $6.4m which added an extra $153 to the annual rates bill for the 4000 ratepayers connected to council sewerage schemes.
Since then a further $2.6m had been spent at Waipukurau.