While Waihi Village may have turned down a Taupō District Council offer for reticulated water and wastewater, there are other villages around the district where the money could be spent instead.
Other areas without reticulated water and wastewater currently include 20 properties at Motutere Point, about 300 properties at the eastern lakeshore settlements of Waitetoko, Te Rangiita, Oruatua, Tauranga-Taupō, and around 100 properties in Lower Motuoapa, which is the old town area on the northern side of State Highway 1.
The council had set aside $1.95 million in its 2021-2031 Long Term Plan to connect the historic private lakeshore village of Waihi to reticulated water.
It was also, while the water trench was being dug, going to take the opportunity to install a sewer main to allow the 36 homes in the village plus a marae and lodge, to have their sewerage piped to the Tūrangi Wastewater Treatment Plant.
At present, homes in the village are connected to septic tanks, which is problematic given many of the tanks are ageing and the village is close to Lake Taupō.
A report tabled at the August Taupō District Council meeting said while septic tanks were usually adequate for public health purposes, they did not treat effluent to a high standard and did not cope well with shock loading, such as when the marae hosted a large number of visitors.
The council had been working with the village since it was approached by the Waihi Marae Trust in 2014 on a project to provide the village with safe, potable drinking water sourced from the Turangi water scheme, and the Ministry of Health also agreed to provide $471,000 from its Drinking Water Subsidy Scheme.
At the time, it was also proposed to connect Waihi to Tūrangi's wastewater treatment plant as a common trench could be used for both the water and wastewater infrastructure, resulting in cost savings.
However, extending water and wastewater pipes into the village was fraught with difficulty, mainly because the road into the village is on top of landslip debris.
About 150 people lost their lives as a result of the slips and it is likely that koiwi tangata, or human remains, lie buried underneath the road reserve corridor. Given that, any pipe-laying along Waihi Rd could be undertaken only in a culturally sensitive manner and with the full support of the village community.
While the villagers were initially in favour of the idea, in August, the Waihi Marae Trust made a late submission to the council saying the majority of hapū members of Ngāti Turumakina, Waihi Village, had voted not to proceed with the water project, preferring to remain autonomous and to investigate and look at other water and wastewater options.
Now, the council must decide what to do with the money it had set aside to spend on the Waihi Village water project and there is no shortage of places where it could be used.
Asset manager water Tom Swindells says the council has 18 water supply schemes serving large and small townships and some rural areas around the district, a large number of schemes to manage compared to most other councils around the country.
While it doesn't generally provide water and sewerage to rural properties such as farms, some of its 18 water schemes have grown to service some nearby rural properties. It also has major rural schemes servicing communities at Waihaha, Tirohanga, Whakaroa and River Rd.
Swindells said in response to Long Term Plan submissions, the council was working on a survey to determine whether the lower Motuoapa area community is keen for the council water network to be extended there.
The same community was surveyed in 2013 and only 21 per cent of those who replied supported the water extension project mainly because of the costs involved for the scheme to be extended.
Once the survey has been completed, the results will be presented to the council and if there is good support, officers will recommend that funding is set aside in the annual plan to connect the area.
The council has also set aside $30,000 in its Long Term Plan for a scoping exercise on providing Motutere Point, Waitetoko and Tauranga-Taupō with council water supplies and this project is about to begin.
At present all these properties, many of them close to Lake Taupō, rely on tank or bore water, and septic tanks.
In addition, $50,000 has been set aside for a scoping exercise on connecting unconnected marae to council water supplies and work has already been done to determine which marae are connected and unconnected. The next steps are to work out options for those that are unconnected.
Reports on both of these two projects will be sent back to the council before a decision is made on next steps.
• This article was written by Laurilee McMichael before she finished working at the Taupō & Tūrangi Weekender on October 29.