Whareroa Marae's environment manager is calling for urgent Government action over ongoing concerns about heavy industry contaminants in the area.
Yesterday the Bay of Plenty Regional Council confirmed it was investigating reports that PFAS compounds had been recorded in groundwater in Mount Maunganui's industrial area, on a site near the marae.
PFAS are a large group of man-made compounds that have widely used globally in a range of consumer and industrial applications.
The regional council's general manager of regulatory services Sarah Omundsen said the council was "acting quickly" to gain a fuller picture of the issue.
Further sampling was being undertaken to establish the extent of the contamination and whether it had impacted the surrounding environment, Omundsen said.
The regional council learned of the contamination via a resource consent application where PFAS compounds were identified as part of the supporting contaminated land assessment.
Results were expected to take four weeks and the council said it would continue to work closely with the Whareroa community to keep residents updated.
Tauranga City Council confirmed there was no risk to Mount Maunganui's drinking water.
Whareroa Marae's environment manager Joel Ngātuere said it was time for urgent action to address decades-long health risk concerns for people in the area.
Speaking on behalf of Ngāi Te Rangi hapu Ngāi Tukairangi and Ngāti Kuku, Ngātuere said the reported contamination was "very close to home" as the marae was only about 150 metres from what he understood to be the contaminated site.
Ngātuere said the hapu and marae community were deeply concerned especially after being informed last Thursday of the need for an urgent meeting.
Marae community members met with regional council technical staff on Saturday evening and another meeting to discuss the testing regime was held on Tuesday, he said.
"Saturday's meeting has heightened our alert over the potential public health risks.
"Fortunately, there is no one using bore water for drinking. But if one of the town water pipes cracked potentially it could result in chemicals getting into our drinking water. "
Eighty per cent of the Whareroa community were aged under 10 and over 60. The community included 20 residents, a retirement village and a kohanga reo, he said.
Ngātuere said the marae community had been asked not to eat any food taken from the soil in their backyards in and around the marae until further notice.
"This recent contamination report confirms to us that we were right to call for a 10-year-plan to have all heavy industries removed from around us and from Mount Maunganui.
"Everybody loves to live and play on land and in water and this is the right call not just for us but for the sake of everyone who lives and works in this part of Mount Maunganui."
Ngātuere said in case of the potential for further contamination he wanted to sample testing to include three main stormwater discharge points including one in front of the marae.
He also called for testing for "all chemicals" in the sampling rather than just for PFAS.
"Heavy chemicals are used at other sites all around us as well and the risk is too great to wait until some sort of Pandora's box is opened further down the track."
"We understand that some of these chemicals can stay in the soil for 150 to 200 years, so [in our view] there is a real potential for them to leach outside the original discharge site."
He said he wanted the Government to treat the concerns as a public health safety issue.
In a statement to One News, Environment Minister David Parker said he was aware of the "possible groundwater contamination", and understood the "concerns" of iwi given the location of the site.
However, the minister said, because of the heavily industrialised area "the detection of some PFAS compounds in a contaminated land assessment is not unexpected", One News reported.
Dr Jim Miller, Medical Officer of Health at Toi Te Ora Public Health, said currently there was no evidence of risk of public exposure to this contamination.
"The main concern would be if PFAS was to contaminate drinking water.
"However, Toi Te Ora has been assured by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the Tauranga City Council that this is very unlikely as Mount Maunganui, including the community at the Whareroa Marae, is connected to the town water supply.
"The Bay of Plenty Regional Council is carrying out further investigation in the area as a precaution. Toi Te Ora will be discussing this further when the results are available."
In New Zealand, the use of PFAS has been significantly restricted in recent years, he said.
The regional council did not answer specific questions from the Bay of Plenty Times about the reported contamination and discovery of it, and what remedial steps had been taken.
A council spokeswoman said: "The regional council will provide further detail on the proactive investigation once we receive the initial sampling results in three to four weeks.
"Staff have met and will continue to meet with Whareroa representatives to work together on the investigation plan as well as the sites to be sampled."
According to the Ministry for the Environment's website, PFAS are a class of man made chemicals that have been used since the 1950s.
They are used in the production of a range of products that resist heat, stains, grease and water, including furniture protectants, floor wax and specialised firefighting foam.
"PFAS have been widely used globally in a range of consumer and industrial applications, and last for a long time before breaking down. Because of this, they are found in the environment worldwide, including in humans and animals," the ministry said.
"People are exposed to small amounts of some PFAS in everyday life, through food, dust, air, water and contact with consumer products that contain these compounds.
"Most people have small amounts of these substances in their systems and this is not known to cause a health risk."