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Advance voting in Tairawhiti / Gisborne vo

18th Sep 2014

TAIRAWHITI / GISBORNE voters were quick to take advantage of advance voting, which began on the 3rd ... more

Outfall fallout might finally be behind us

Date: 29th Mar 2007

Outfall fallout might finally be behind us
by John Jones - Gisborne Herald
Wednesday, 29 March, 2007

A CONTROVERSY that has raged for more than a decade and cost ratepayers millions of dollars may finally reaching a resolution, with the future of the city's wastewater outfall pipe likely to be settled following a three-day hearing last week.
    Long a thorn in the side of Maori and environmentalist, the outfall pipe still remains the only feasible outlet for the city's wastewater at present.  The key quesion is for how long.
   Last weeks hearing was before five independent commissioners for a suite of applications for resource consents and notices of requirement needed to establish a wastewater plant at Gisborne Airport and a 35-year consent for the pipeline and discharge.
   The proposal was a new one that had been revised after an adjournment of nearly a year in which a Wastewater Adjournment Review Group (WARG) that included Maori, council staff and environment representatives had worked to achieve a compromise with Gisborne District Council. Commissioners and some of the submitters praised the groups work.
    The essence of the new proposal is a biological trickling filter (BTF) plant that has been generally accepted by the submitters, including Maori.
    The major sticking point was the 35 year consent period for the pipeline, which was opposed by Maori and other submitters.
    Another problem for the council was the need to meet the conditions of Section 107 of the Resource Management Act, which meant a consent could not be granted for any discharge that would lead to a conspicuous change in the colour or visual clarity of the water.
    This condition was not met for much of the 2006 horticultural season and evidence was given that the prime cause of this was Cedenco Foods.
    Later in the hearing Cedenco gave evidence of a new plant it hoped to have installed and commisioned by next month.
    Major local industries have spent $5 million installing onsite treatment which is costing $1 million a year to operate.
    Commissioners made it clear that section 107 must be complied with and his final address GDC counsel Nicholas Wright suggested a special condition that there should not be any plume that would be visible from Kaiti Hill.
    Solving the wastewater issue has been a long and costly process for the District Council, involving appeals tot he Environment Court.
    The present application had cost $3 million by the end of January, not including the latest hearing.
    The new BTF treatment plant is expected to cost $24.1 million, with annual operating costs of $4.4 million from 2012 - which will make up 10 percent of the council's rate requirement.
    A wastewater loan profile showed the council exceeding its maximum debt level of $45 million in 2010 but that was described as a worst-case scenario assuming all the work was done.
    Between 1993 and 2006 the council has spent $8.3 million upgrading the city's stormwater system and $4.9 million on the sewarage system.
    A lone voice in opposition to every other submitter came from Harold Williams, the former city engineer who designed and launched the outfall pipe in 1964.
    He remains adamant that the BTF system is not needed and the pipeline could cope if there was some more treatment at the outfall inlet.
    In an unusual move, committee chairman Alan Watson said the committee was of a mind to grant the council's application, albeit with a large number of conditions. They were acting in the spirit of goodwill shown by the parties during the hearing, he said.
    The committee will decide on all the applications except for two coastal discharge permits which must be approved by the Minister of Conversation. The commissioners will make recommendations to the minister.
    The committee will ask the WARG to try and reach a consesus on the membership of a wastewater management committee which will be set up. It will also advise the submitters of its proposed conditions to give them a chance to comment on them.