New Conservation Minister Tim Groser will have to decide whether to allow Whangarei District Council to dump raw sewage into Whangarei Harbour in emergencies.
Submissions close today on an application by the district council to the Northland Regional Council to renew its resource consent, allowing up to 24,000 cubic metres of untreated sewage a day into the harbour during emergencies.
The district council also wants a new consent to build a sewage outfall from the Butter Factory Lane sewage manhole into the Waiarohia Stream, at Railway Rd, again for emergencies such as heavy storms.
Because the application to dump raw sewage in the harbour is a Restricted Coastal Activity under the Resource Management Act, the Conservation Minister will have to make the final decision, based on recommendations from the regional council's hearings committee - or the Environment Court if the matter is appealed.
The regional council can make the decision on the Butter Factory Lane outlet as it is just outside that coastal area.
By yesterday, the regional council had well over 50 submissions on the applications and its consents manger Dave Roke said they would likely be heard by its hearings committee early in the new year.
Because of the Restricted Coastal Activity aspect, the committee is likely to include one regional councillor, a representative from the Department of Conservation and an independent hearings commissioner.
Meanwhile, Whangarei resident Jill Kahika has collected more than 2500 signatures for a petition opposing the discharges, in less than two weeks.
Ms Kahika said the support had been overwhelming and she would today present it to the regional council, where it will be counted as one submission.
The Whangarei Alliance, a collective made up of five hapu with Treaty of Waitangi claims over the harbour - Ngati Kahu o Torongare, Te Parawhau, Waiariki, Ngati Korora and Nga Uri O Pohe - is going ahead with a protest march against the pollution of the harbour.
The group organised a march with other concerned groups and awaits permission from the Whangarei District Council. It is tentatively scheduled to march down Bank St from 1pm on December 12 to a public meeting at Forum North.
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