A group of Whangarei Harbour hapu want the entire community to unite to put pressure on the Whangarei District Council to sort out its ageing sewage system.
The council has applied to the Northland Regional Council to renew its resource consent to allow 24,000 cubic metres of untreated sewage a day - enough to fill 10 Olympic-sized swimming pools - into Whangarei Harbour during emergencies.
The district council also wants a new consent to construct a sewage outfall from the Butter Factory Lane sewage manhole into the Waiarohia Stream, at Railway Rd, again for emergencies.
But the Whangarei Alliance, a collective made up of five harbour hapu - Ngati Kahu o Torongare, Te Parawhau, Waiariki, Ngati Korora and Nga Uri O Pohe - doesn't believe it is good enough for the council to be allowed to dump sewage in the harbour.
The hapu in the alliance all have claims before the Waitangi Tribunal over the harbour and want to ensure it is looked after until such time as it is returned to their guardianship.
The group will also look at asking the Waitangi Tribunal for an urgent hearing to ``put a stop to the on-going environmental damage and degradation'.
The alliance will meet with other community groups on Thursday to organise a community protest march.
Alliance deputy chairman Willie Pohe said the Treaty claims are not about harbour ownership.
"It's about restoring the health of the harbour and cleaning up the mess. We want to ensure the harbour is there to be used by everybody, and putting that much sewage into it is going to impact on its future wellbeing," he said.
Mr Pohe said he might expect raw sewage to flow into a harbour in a Third World country, but not New Zealand with its supposed clean, green image.
"While we have Treaty claims over the harbour we have left it to the Whangarei District Council to look after the water quality. But rather than protect it, they have allowed sewage to flow into the harbour time and time again, and now they want to be allowed to continue to do it."
Group member Elvis Reti said the group feared that by the time the tribunal got round to hearing the hapu claims "the harbour will be no use to anybody".
The previous council sought public input on what to do about the city's sewage woes last year, but was disappointed at the lack of submissions. When the council called a meeting to get feedback before spending millions fixing the overflows from the two pumping station, only 15 people showed up.
The cost of fixing the problem is $5 million to $21 million.
Whangarei District Council infrastructure manager Simon Weston said ending all spills would require a ``huge investment'.
"The council very much doesn't want to see wastewater spills. We want to operate a reliable system."
But to sort out the problems the council would have to change its priorities or find extra funding - which would have to come from the ratepayers. "It's up to the community to decide when and how much they want to spend on infrastructure."
If the public really wanted something done, they could make submissions to the Long Term Council Community Plan, which sets out the council's spending plans for the next 10 years. It comes up for consultation next year.
• Submissions on the Whangarei District Council applications to the NRC close on November 25.