Waiariki MP Rawiri Waititi has taken aim at Rotorua Lakes Council over a recent sewerage fault in Ngāpuna, saying the council "needs to clean its s**t up".
But the council has responded that it acted swiftly, fixed the problem, consulted with locals and has a plan to help prevent another issue from occurring.
Waititi was invited to attend a community hui at Hurungaterangi Marae in Ngāpuna last week where locals spoke about "physical and psychological suffering" caused by the recent fault in the wastewater pump station on Hona Rd.
"I smelt the problem before I got out of the car", said Waititi. "The neighbourhood literally smelt like s**t."
Waititi said although the council had fixed the problem, he described it as a "patch-up job" and called for the council to respect manawhenua and remove the plant from the area.
"I understand the council has said that the issues have been resolved. Well, they haven't been. They've patched the job up, yes, but how enduring is this patch up? What is the long-term plan to prevent this from happening again? The fact that the water issues are fixed for the meantime ignores the wider issues here," Waititi said.
He said Ngāpuna wanted a long-term plan and they wanted the council to appoint a delegate to remain in constant contact with the hapū.
"We want the old pipes replaced (not patched up) and pumps fixed immediately. Ultimately, the Ngapuna community wants the plant and pipes removed and that needs to be incorporated into the city's long-term plan which is being developed now."
Waititi said he believed the issue would be fixed straight away if it were a Pākeha or rich community.
"In fact, if it was a Pākeha community, the plant wouldn't have been put there in the first place."
Resident Chynelle Picard, who lives across the road from the pump station on Hona Rd, said the council offered to put them up in motels while the issue was being fixed last week.
"I appreciated that but we have babies and pets and it's my home. I shouldn't have to leave my home for them.
"It just sucks for Ngāpuna. We always get the raw end of everything. We have to deal with the waste management plant that brings with it rats, smell and birds and noise from the industrial area."
She said residents had also heard whispers about transitional housing being built behind the marae.
"We all pay rates and most of us are homeowners. I just feel that this wouldn't happen in Lynmore."
Council infrastructure group manager Stavros Michael said the issue was caused when a wastewater main near the Hona Rd pump station collapsed. The damage to the pipe allowed silt and other debris to enter the pump station chamber which blocked the two pumps, causing wastewater to build up inside the chamber.
Trility staff responded immediately, meaning there was no spill or overflow of untreated sewage.
Michael said staff were able to get the situation under control and get temporary diversion pipes and sucker trucks on-site to manage the wastewater flow from the pump station to the treatment plant.
To repair the damage, Trility and Fulton Hogan placed a temporary seal on the wastewater main. This stopped any further debris and groundwater from entering the pump station.
Michael said in the week following, specialised dive crews were called in to manually remove the debris from within the pump station chamber and unblock the pumps.
The pumps were unblocked on Friday last week and residents were notified that afternoon, Michael said.
"The issue within the pump station has been resolved but there is still work to be done on the wastewater main," Michael said.
Trility will re-line the 900mm pipe as an interim measure with a longer-term plan to replace the damaged 10m pipe. The re-line will add about 10 years to the pipe's asset life but the full pipe replacement will happen possibly within the next couple of years.
The damaged wastewater main and the pump station are about 45 years old and are on a site at the end of Hona Rd.
The main carries all the wastewater from the eastern area of Rotorua to the pump station. The pump station then pumps the wastewater uphill to the wastewater treatment plant for full treatment.
Michael said the wastewater main collapse was a surprise as it was only halfway through its design asset life.
The council believed three things could have been responsible - hydrogen sulphide from the wastewater, which is acidic, a high groundwater table in that area and geothermal activity (sulphur) that can eat away at the concrete.
Michael said the issue was not related to the operations of the wastewater treatment plant.
He said the council had identified the need to upgrade the treatment plant and it's proposed in the 2021-2031 Long-term Plan.
When asked if the council acknowledged the distress the issue was causing locals, Michael said the council acknowledged it was disruptive for residents.
"Staff visited those residents a number of times during the week to keep them up to date with what was going on and to thank them personally for their patience and understanding."
He said there would have been odours coming from the site while the repair work was taking place.
However, outside last week's issues at the pump station, Michael said the council was not aware of any recent complaints from the Ngāpuna community about overflows, odours or wastewater-related issues.
He said the council was bound by a resource consent to ensure that the Wastewater Treatment Plant didn't emit odour and it had not had any contact from the regional council to say that it was in breach of that consent.
He said the council had met regularly with the Ngāpuna community during the past four years to improve infrastructure in the area – including new footpaths, streetlights, bus shelters and speed controls on the roads.
The council had also met with the community regularly regarding the wastewater treatment plant upgrade proposals. Michael said sewerage issues had not been reported at any of those forums.
The council was to meet with Waititi this week to discuss his concerns and Michael said if residents in Ngāpuna had any ongoing concerns they would be happy to discuss directly.
The wastewater treatment plant sits on land gifted by Ngāti Whakaue for the establishment of the township.
The site has been used for sewerage purposes since 1891, and the current treatment plant was established in 1973, with several major upgrades since then.
From time to time there were requests to the council to move the wastewater treatment plant from its current site.
Michael said moving the plant was difficult because of a lack of viable alternatives, operational practicalities in redesigning a reticulation system built over many generations and very high cost – it would cost at least $450m as it would require constructing an entire new plant, wastewater piping network (currently about 500km of pipes) and pumping systems. The plant services most of Rotorua.
He said just like moving the treatment plant, moving the pump station and wastewater main from Hona Rd would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
"Wastewater infrastructure is a critical service for the community and the importance of working in partnership with iwi to ensure the infrastructure strategy and planning takes into consideration appropriate cultural considerations is a priority for council."
He said the council had a history of strong partnerships with iwi for future planning. Through the 2021-2031 Long-Term Plan the council was proposing investments totalling $424m into infrastructure which included a proposed investment of $248m into stormwater and sewerage infrastructure.