Whirinaki Rd resident Kerry Le Geyt is on the brink of leaving.

Since September, Pan Pac Forest Products' broken wastewater pipe has been leaking brown, foamy water onto her doorstep - Whirinaki Beach. And she has had enough. But she is not the only one.

"We moved out here for a lifestyle and for our wellbeing and it doesn't feel like this is good for my wellbeing," she said on Monday.

"We like these people but this is about something they're doing that is actually ethically and morally wrong and it needs to be put right," Le Geyt said.


"With all the millions that they make, they can find an environmentally friendly solution to take it out of the sea and do something better with it."

Brown, foamy water can be seen on Whirinaki Beach. Photo / Duncan Brown.
Brown, foamy water can be seen on Whirinaki Beach. Photo / Duncan Brown.

The pipe leak was first flagged by fellow resident Glen Kohlis on September 15, who reported discolouration near the water's edge at Whirinaki Beach.

Although it was It was initially thought to be an algal bloom, it was later found to be seepage of treated wastewater from Pan Pac's wastewater treatment plant.

"You come out here because you think it is a good place to raise a young family," Kohlia said.

"You know the mill is there, but you rely on the Hawke's Bay Regional Council to be able to keep those people in check and make them do the right thing."

The region's second largest employer, Pan Pac has a resource consent to discharge wastewater 2.4 kilometres out to sea from the beach. Kohlis says the leak is in breach of their consent.

"If the Regional Council gave them an abatement notice, they would have it fixed overnight."

Father, Warren Kohlis, who also lives on the road, believes the Hawke's Bay Regional Council should be "exposed" for what's happening.

A warning sign on Whirinaki Beach. Photo / Duncan Brown
A warning sign on Whirinaki Beach. Photo / Duncan Brown

"The regional council can't abdicate their responsibility in looking after the environment. There's no pressure on Pan Pac to fix it, so they're getting away with continuing to discharge."

Hawke's Bay Regional Council Chief Executive James Palmer said "closing the mill down while the leak is being fixed would be an overreaction" but said the leak "does put Pan Pac in breach of its consent".

"Pan Pac has a consent for the discharge from the wastewater pipe, so what is currently being discharged is not something that shouldn't be discharging to the environment, however the leak means it is not being discharged further out to sea where greater diffusion and mixing normally occurs."

He said it was investigating whether Pan Pac was completely compliant with its consents and maintenance of its assets in the lead up to the pipe leak.

He said the company had kept the council "fully informed throughout the process" and were working fast, but a fix was technically challenging given the location.

"While we are disappointed with the amount of time it's taking to repair the leak and obviously the impact it's having in the local area, issuing an abatement notice to fix the pipe would not achieve anything as Pan Pac is already working to fix it."

Pan Pac managing director Doug Ducker said a repair plan is being progressed for HBRC review by the end of the week.

It was working with engineering companies to complete an internal inspection of the pipe by camera to determine the exact size and location of the leak.

Ducker said the information will allow them to design the internal fibreglass patch using the correct size and method.

"Pan Pac is aware that local residents share our urgency to have the pipeline repaired as soon as possible and some community members may be disappointed that it is taking longer than anticipated."

At the end of December, the company had incurred a cost of $409,000 trying to fix the pipe. This is expected to rise.

Ducker said a long-term replacement of the original pipe is also in the works.

Hawke's Bay District Health Board Medical Officer of Health, Dr Nick Jones, said it believed the current health risk at Whirinaki is low, but were continuing to monitor the situation.

In a report prepared for Pan Pac, an ESR scientist concluded that elevated bacteria levels being sampled were coming from plant-based material and not from animal/human faeces. Jones said the DHB does not consider plant-based bacteria a risk to human health.

However, he says the DHB have asked Pan Pac to include a swim warning on their signage at the site.