Palmerston North City councillors and staff met with residents of Shannon at a public meeting on Tuesday, July 14 to discuss the six shortlisted options the council is considering to deal with its wastewater, currently being discharged into the Manawatū River after being treated.
The resource consent for the current wastewater scheme ends in 2022 and a new one has to be applied for which could potentially last up to 35 years.
Since the previous resource consent was granted in 2006, laws and standards have changed as well as people's views about the environment. It is accepted that the current wastewater discharge scheme affects the ecology and water quality of the Manawatū River.
Concerns about the negative impact of wastewater discharge into the Manawatū were raised in 2013 by Horizons Regional Council. This led to Palmerston North City Council agreeing to bring forward the next resource consent application by eight years to 2022.
Horowhenua District councillor Robert Ketu organised the meeting which took place four days after public submissions on the proposed options closed.
He said, "Palmerston North City Council have not consulted with local iwi at all on this matter which affects us deeply. Manawatū awa is our bloodline, our place of significance," a view which was strongly supported by residents at the meeting.
"We want to hand over something sustainable to future generations. We don't want our mokopuna to be fighting as we have been fighting for our awa."
Before becoming a local councillor, Robert Ketu led a Ngati Whakatere iwi protest over plans by Horowhenua District Council in 2015 to discharge Shannon's wastewater on to a neighbouring farm which was owned by the council.
At the time he said council did not consult with iwi and were not taking their concerns about disturbance of wahi tapu on the farm seriously.
Chaired by Palmerston North City councillor Brent Barrett, the small crowd in Shannon's Senior Citizens' Hall were led through the six shortlisted options for treating wastewater by the Nature Calls project manager Melanie Voss and Palmerston North City Council transport and infrastructure manager Robert van Bentum.
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In response to the question of why only Rangitane were the only iwi included in the steering group, councillor Barrett stated the council had made that decision.
Several residents spoke passionately about the need for meaningful consultation with all iwi who could be affected by any of the six wastewater options.
They pointed out that each iwi "spoke for themselves" and Rangaitane o Manawatu do not represent views of Horowhenua iwi, specifically Ngati Raukawa ki te Tonga, Ngati Whakatere, Ngati Ngarongo, Muaupoko, Ngati Rakau and Ngati Turanga.
Feedback from the Shannon residents was very clear, that all affected iwi/hapu should be part of the steering group going forward, and meaningful engagement for them would be hui on their marae. They told council representatives the Whakawehi (Poutu) marae north-west of Shannon is the only marae actually on the banks of the Manawatū River.
The other clear message from the Shannon residents was that they did not support any option which involved wastewater discharge into the Manawatū.
One resident, 'Sharkey', said, "You are not going to discharge into our river no more. Enough is enough."
Trevor Pilkington was as direct. "Anything that goes into the Manawatū is a no no. You have been polluting our river for 100 years and we've had enough."
Responding to these concerns, Robert van Bentum said, "The main objective in all this work is to do our best for the river."
Councillor Barrett assured everyone that they had "got two very clear messages" from the group which they would report back to council.
Mayor Grant Smith was unable to be at the meeting but responded to the comments afterwards.
He explained that Palmerston North City Council began considering the approach for discharge of its wastewater in 2017. At that stage Rangitane o Manawatū were included in the steering group as manu whenua of the city.
"Since 2017, considerable work has gone into identifying options for the wastewater discharge, including the development of a longlist of 36 options which have been assessed and narrowed down to the shortlist that is now being considered.
"The process used for shortlisting included consideration of Māori cultural values and was informed by bi-cultural assessments that considered effects on all tangata whenua, albeit at a relatively high level in light of the stage in the process.
"Now that the shortlist has been developed, the project team is seeking to engage more directly and specifically with iwi who may be affected by any of the options.
"As there are specific options and locations being actively considered, the council considers that the discussions with iwi at this stage of the process will be more specific and meaningful and will assist in determining the option that it will move forward with.
"Palmerston North City Council is talking to all river-awa catchment iwi and considers this to be a key priority as it has a strong desire to work collaboratively with iwi.
"At this stage, no decisions have been made as to which option on the shortlist council will choose, in particular there has been no decision as to whether wastewater will be discharged to the Manawatū River."
As a result of feedback, Mayor Smith said additional meetings had been held in Foxton and Shannon as well as other towns in the area. He said it was intended that many more face-to-face meetings and hui with iwi are planned to ensure a "balanced representation of stakeholder values".
For the next few months, formal submissions and all feedback on the six shortlisted options will be considered. Technical experts will continue to investigate the options. Later this year, an option will be recommended to Palmerston North City councillors to decide on. The resource consent application will then be worked on for submission to Horizons Regional Council before June 2022.
For more information see the Nature Calls website: https://www.pncc.govt.nz/get-involved/have-your-say/nature-calls/
Video explaining wastewater in Palmerston North https://www.pncc.govt.nz/get-involved/have-your-say/nature-calls/what-is-wastewater/