East Rotoiti – Rotoma Sewerage Scheme

Update July 2021 - Biolytix Chosen

We have been in regular contact over a number of years with the Lakes Council Infrastructure team to obtain updates and have posted the information we obtained for members. This being necessary due to very limited communications from Council.

Due to these ongoing proactive requests from LRCA, we received an invite recently to meet with Council and the Iwi Liaison group, whom Council have liaised with over meeting the Cultural obligations required by the resource consent for the scheme.

We were advised the progress with obtaining the full Council approval of the tender and the timetable for Council to despatch the letter to property owners confirming that approval and the decision of which system has been chosen.

That letter was received in the post on 19 July - copy here - and it advises that the Biolytix pre-treatment on-site system has been confirmed by Councillors. The letter provides other background information, including some numbers around scheme costs, planned inclusion of Rotoehu if funding is received, and that the final cost per property will not be struck until all costs are known. We sought estimated timeframe for confirmation of the agreed works programme, but that is not available yet.

It also refers to a further Community meeting, possibly at Labour weekend. LRCA will keep pressure on for that meeting to proceed. Installation should be underway by then, and the Community will want more information.

We have requested involvement in any periodical meetings to monitor progress with the installation programme, to represent the Community.

Update June 2021

RLC has requested additional funding from Mfe (Ministry for Environment) to close the funding shortfall due to higher scheme costs compared to 2014 estimates. If this additional funding is approved, a Community meeting will be held to explain funding  and tender outcomes.

Further to our March update, RLC agreed to meet with us in late April and we were provided with a summary of the current position. This aligned with the submission documents to Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Group that we subsequently obtained.

 

TENDERS

The tender evaluation exercise is complete and the preferred System and Main Contractor is now evident. That allowed Council to calculate the total scheme costs - actual Rotoma on-site installations, reticulation network, treatment plant and access road, and finally the onsite installations for East Rotoiti as per successful tender.

 

FUNDING SHORTFALL

Council has identified a circa $10m funding shortfall, (document here), and as previously predicted, a funding submission has been submitted to Mfe. We have obtained the two funding submission documents from the agenda of the recent Rotorua Te Arawa Strategy Group meeting - links above. We strongly recommend that Members read these as they provide very interesting information about the scheme, and in particular the reasons for costs increases that have caused the funding shortfall.

If that request is successful, it will restore the original 50/50 contribution between local ratepayers, and from the Funding Deed.

 

CONTRACT ADOPTION

If funding certainty is secured, the Infrastructure team will prepare the Contract Adoption recommendation (of Contractor and on-site system) to be submitted to the Finance and Strategy Committee of Council.

 

COMMUNITY MEETING

LRCA has consistently requested a community meeting for Council to explain its recommendation, the final cost per property, and installation timelines. Council has agreed and plans to arrange a community meeting before submission to the Council Committee. That may be in early June if the Mfe funding decision is received promptly.

If the Community and Council committee are in support, the recommendation will then be submitted to the full Council for approval.

Watch this space for further updates.

Update March 2021

Prior to most recent Committee meeting on 1 March, an update was requested, (email here), from RLC, and a response was received, (email here).

RLC's concluding comments regarding the on-site sewerage system selection and funding are: “Please be assured that the process remains as you outlined. i.e. Conclude funding and contract matters, advice to the local communities, then report to Council with recommendations. We do hope that March/April would be the correct time frame".

Key additional points from the RLC response were:

* Tender evaluation process is challenging

* A number of market pressures and specific Rotoiti area factors are driving capital supply and installation costs higher than expected.

* Options assessment for funding has been undertaken.

* Application was made at February meeting of Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Strategy group to the MfE, (Ministry for the Environment), for a deed funding contribution for the scheme to reflect market costs changes.

* Officers are working with MfE to determine options

* Overall objective is to pursue net Ratepayer costs as close as possible to those estimated back in 2017

* Unable to provide more detail or timeframes for outcomes.

* Intention is to clarify with MfE, then advise the Community, then submit a report and recommendations to Council, (hopefully in April), regarding entering into a construction contract and agreeing the capital and operational funding plan.

* Council is aware of the time that this is taking, are navigating some difficult matters, and cannot provide more information until resolved.

LRCA is grateful for this prompt reply, however it does not provide us with the background to the ‘specific Rotoiti area factors’ referred to above, nor the reasons for additional funding being necessary.

However examination of the agenda (p25 to p31) of the 12 February 2021 ROTORUA TE ARAWA LAKES STRATEGY meeting, (available here), provides more information.

In summary, section 8.3 p28 states:

“The forecasted variance by the Rotorua Lakes Council is driven by anticipated costs associated with reticulating Lake Rotoiti sewerage".

The cost drivers are varied but predominantly have been led by:

* Construction inflation,

* Higher costs to meet consent conditions not known in 2015,

* Improving access to the leased land at Haumingi 9B3B site,

* Provision of higher quality pretreatment systems to address cultural impacts,

* Additional security of installation for pretreatment systems on 180 sites where the systems must be installed below the water table

* And special legal processes to secure consents to install infrastructure on Maori land with multiple owners.

The pages 25 to 31 provide some other interesting information.

* There is an outline of the funding deed in the 2005 Treaty settlement for specific lakes (including Rotoiti) of $72m for improving lake water quality.

* There is an outline on how the remaining funding may further assist the Rotoma/East Rotoiti sewerage scheme

* There are 3 recommendations:

1. Revert to the pre 2014 allocation of deed funds between RLC and BoPRC. Transfer funds from the underspend on previous schemes (Mourea, Otaramarae, Whangamarino, and others around Rotorua to assist funding shortfall for Rotoma/Rotoiti.

2. Review Deed funding as no provision has been made for inflation since 2005.

3. Provide funding to include Rotoehu and Ngamotu settlement in Rotoma in the Rotoma/Rotoiti scheme, (it can cater for the additional load)

* The report highlights that RLC has not made decisions on how to fund increased project costs stated of $8,337,500, (that remains despite any Deed funding decisions). Options to be considered as part of its long term plan deliberations may include:

1. Staying within current plan requiring property owners to pay an increased net capital contribution compared to initial estimate

2. RLC could make contribution to Marae, sportsclubs, schools

3. Increase its financial assistance from current $1500 per property

4. Obtain debt funding for part of the increase

5. Or a combination of the above

Property owners will be unhappy if RLC adopts option 1, or a combination of options, that imposes increased costs per property.

If so, the community may consider lobbying RLC; BopRC; MfE on this matter through LRCA and directly.

Members are welcome to provide their views to LRCA at lrca@rotoiti.co.nz.

Update 10 December 2020 - Christmas Newsletter Update

LRCA submitted a number of questions to RLC and requested a detailed update for our December Newsletter. Infrastructure Manager Peter Dine helpfully provided the following information (slightly
 abridged).


Project cost increases.

The Lakes Strategy Group has agreed to fund 50% of additional project costs. We will update costs at tender approval stage.

Shortlisted On-site systems specified for tender:



- Delos from Innflow (an improved STEP)

- BiolytixX

- Perco (a Hynds Product)



- Biorock

The last two are two chambered trickling filter systems that operate aerobically (i.e with oxygen).

On-site Systems

The pre-treatment systems provide an initial breakdown of waste before being pumped from each site to a pressurised reticulated pipe network which collects waste from all sites and transfers it to the plant. For the reticulation system back-up generators are provided at each pumping station in case of power failure. For on-site systems 24hr emergency storage is provided in case of power failure along with an alarm.


On-site system installation timeline.


We would envisage a minimum of two years to get all installed.

Land issue
.

This does not really affect progress. About 75% of properties can be connected now i.e. they front public road. We need to engage with each and every household for placement of tanks including Maori owned. Many of the households are also owners in the Maori Land blocks so we can do both at same time. We can't start talking to households until we know what system is going in as that does affect locality, reinstatement issues etc. We can work through the Maori land approvals as we go. Many do have to go to the Maori Land Court but the Court has been working with us on a process to manage this.

Update 8 October 2020 - Action Plan

LRCA has regularly sought improved communication from Rotorua Lakes Council regarding the sewerage scheme at East Rotoiti.

On 8 October LRCA received confirmation from Infrastructure Management that the tender invitations for the onsite pretreatment sewerage systems were sent to the 6 shortlisted main contractors the previous week, with the deadline in mid November.

They predict that the evaluation team will have reviewed tenders before Christmas. They plan to conduct community consultation about the preferred option in January during the holiday period.

They have agreed to work with Phill Thomas (Lake Community Board) and LRCA in regards to planning the Community Consultation.

At the conclusion  of consultation, management will submit their recommendation to councillors for the pretreatment sewerage system to be installed on east Rotoiti properties.

Update 14 September 2020

Rotorua Lakes Council’s latest East Rotoiti Sewerage update of 14 September 2020 advises that tenders for an on-site wastewater pre-treatment system to be installed at properties in east Rotoiti, will be undertaken over the next 3 months.

Following appointment of a contractor and system Council will engage directly with property owners regarding site location and other relevant site matters. This can only be done after it is known what system will be installed.Properties will then gradually be connected to the Rotoiti network which has now been largely completed. The contractor undertaking this work has now demobilised from site.

With regard to the onsite system that will be installed the council advises that: “Council is yet to tender the on-site systems for the Rotoiti area. Only when that tender process is complete and a supplier appointed can Council discuss with property owners details of on-site arrangements”.

A complicating issue for the council will be that for a number of multiple ownership properties the owners can not be easily identified and without the owners permission council cannot install pipes on these properties. This will no doubt cause additional delays in the completion of the installations for some multiple ownership properties until owner approval can be obtained and thus the overall completion of the project.

The full update is available here.

Update 18 August 2020

LRCA have been concerned at the lack of communication from RLC on progress with on-site installation of septic tanks for east Rotoiti. Council has previously advised it was about to invite tenders but that has still not occurred. 

We recently met with Phill Thomas, chair of community board and LRCA followed up with an email to management of Infrastructure team at council. A prompt reply was received from General Manager Stavros Michael, providing update information, and committing to ongoing communications. These two emails are now published on the Sewerage section of our website.

Also published is the report recently presented by Stavros to the Rotorua and Te Arawa Lakes Strategy group, seeking additional funding to meet some of the cost escalation between the 2017 estimate of $34m, and the final project costs. This amount will not be known until the project is completed. The meeting approved the exploration of this funding from the residual settlement deed funds.

A short update on Rotorua Lakes Council (RLC) activity that relates to lake water quality to the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Strategy Group is also available.

LRCA will continue to interact with Council to obtain regular updates, and to meet with Council at the appropriate time to ensure we ascertain the factors that will influence the selection of the type of system that will be recommended to full Council for approval. Most particularly to understand the cost implications of options.

In its July 2020 updates the Rotorua Lakes Council advised that:

Tenders for an on-site wastewater pre-treatment system to be installed at properties in east Rotoiti, will be undertaken over the next 3 months.

Over the next two years, as engagement with home and landowners in the Rotoiti area continues, the new on-site systems will be installed and connected to the new reticulation network.

The capital contribution will not be levied until the scheme is completed and full costs known. This will likely be in two years time (2022).

Links to the RLC Updates:

Project Update - Protecting Waterways

Lets Talk - Rotoiti Rotoma Sewerage Scheme

Update May 2020

2019 has seen the Rotoma reticulation (network of pipes) being completed around August. This involved 22km of pipe work being laid from Matahi Spit to the Wastewater Treatment Plant located on Haumingi 9828 land behind Emery's Store. During that month, Rotorua Lakes Council conducted an official commissioning of the plant which included a pohlri at Taurua Marae and tour of the new facilities by those attending. The plant is designed to limit the amount of nutrients entering the lake and will treat wastewater to a very high standard before it is discharged to land.

The majority of Rotoma properties have now been connected to the network via their on-site STEP (Septic Tank Effluent Pumping) systems and are operating to the new scheme. The Rotoiti component of the reticulation project is currently underway and will extend to Tapuaekura Marae at the end of Curtis Road. The completion of this phase will see a total of 47.5km of pipe work having been laid. Work on identifying the preferred pre-treatment system for Rotoiti is progressing and intended to be finalised during 2020. The overall scheme has the capacity to expand the service area and will include the Lake Rotoehu community if an acceptable funding model can be secured.

As already known, there is currently a substantial capital budget of $35.3 million for the existing scheme which has been largely facilitated by Government, Regional and District subsidies. Around two-thirds of this has been expended to date. A total of 770 properties have been identified for connection to the scheme and there is a currently proposed targeted capital contribution from each individual property of $14,100 (GST inclusive) or $1,080 per annum over 25 years. This targeted rate will be applied following overall completion of the scheme (2020/21 ).In addition, once property owners are connected, they will be charged an annual maintenance fee (currently $540 GST inclusive) to cover operational costs which have been equalised across all reticulated properties in the District.

It has been accepted that these costs will be extremely challenging for many of our affected residents. Your Association in conjunction with the Lakes Community Board is continuing to seek possible options in reducing the amount of capital repayment. It should also be noted that low income earners could qualify for a partial rebate of overall rates. Inquiries may be made to Rotorua Lakes Council.

Lake Rotoiti Sewerage Schemes - A Brief History

Concerns over deteriorating lake water quality grew amongst Rotoiti residents during the 1970s and 1980s and continuing research improved local knowledge and understanding as to the causes. It became evident that septic disposal systems being used in our lakeside communities were to varying degrees a contributing factor towards this gradual degradation. Ensuing and persistent calls by LRRRA over several years eventually persuaded Rotorua District Council (RDC) to engage an external consultant group to prepare feasibility studies for 13 small communities within the District, including those around Rotoiti, and provide specific reports for each along with costing options for sewerage reticulation.

The next stage would be community consultation. Mourea/Okawa Bay and Okere/Otaramarae were equal second on the priority list and due to be consulted in 1997. Separate schemes for Gisborne Point and Hinehopu were scheduled for a later date. Council policy at the time was to fund new schemes 100 percent from general rates and given the ‘high capital costs’ implementation would likely be several years down the track.

As it turned out, 1998 brought about the revelation that the costs provided in the preliminary Consultants Report had been drastically under-estimated and current costings were prohibitively high meaning alternative options would need to be explored. A revised policy to deal with small community sewerage problems was now under development and clarification of responsibilities and funding implications would be addressed with Regional Council and Local Government NZ.

Notwithstanding further urgent calls from the lake communities, it would be another six years before commencement of the first of our lakeside schemes in Mourea/Okawa Bay. In 2004, RDC prepared a Statement of Proposal & Information Pack for Eastern Sewerage Schemes (Rotokawa to Otaramarae) detailing comprehensive costings. New policies would provide subsidised funding from the Health and/or Environment Ministries along with specific targeted contributions from BoP Regional Council and RDC. The balance of total capital costs after provision of subsidies would be borne by property owners within the scheme boundaries. Following resolute debate and submissions from LRRRA, RDC agreed that annual operating costs would be equalised across all reticulated properties within the Rotorua district. The Okere and Otaramarae scheme was completed in 2008 leaving the East Rotoiti communities to follow at some stage in the future.

The provision of sewerage reticulation to these communities was included in the RDC Long Term Council Plan of 2009-19. Proposals for the scheme to commence in Rotomā were contained in a Report to RDC Works Committee in March 2010 which summarised community submissions and included the implementation of a local sewer reticulation network and trunk main connecting to a wastewater treatment plant and disposal field located between Lake Rotomā and Lake Rotoiti intended to serve both Rotomā and East Rotoiti communities.

During the course of 2010, RDC newsletters were sent to East Rotoiti residents with updated information and the adoption of a recommendation to progress the detailed planning and design of the Rotoiti scheme to take in areas between Curtis Road and Morehu Road (Lake Rotoehu) and scheduled to be completed and operational by end of 2012.

More details emerged during 2011 which set alarm bells ringing amongst local residents. Firstly confirmation that the proposed treatment plant would be situated off Manawahe Road only some 500 metres from Lake Rotomā and an admission that the siting would allow nutrients to leach back into the lake. Secondly, the projected cost to individual property owners had ballooned out to around $18,000 which was clearly prohibitive and unaffordable for many households. Further RDC conducted meetings seemingly failed to acknowledge that, although a majority supported upgraded disposal, unreasonable costs would not be acceptable. Despite this, Consent applications proceeded without amendment and, following Hearings, were granted by BoP Regional Council.

In late 2011, appeals from Ngāti Pikiao and Ngāti Makino iwi representatives along with Rotomā/Rotoehu Ratepayers Association were lodged with the Environment Court citing both inadequate protection and cultural insensitivity in respect of the location and discharge from the proposed Treatment Plant. LRCA, as an original submitter, opted to become party to the appeals suggesting that the best means of resolution could be achieved through further mediation. In the event, failure to resolve iwi appeals through mediation and, unable to find an alternative treatment site following the Court’s invitation, RDC decided to surrender the existing consent in late 2012.

Renewed planning for the Scheme began in 2013. In 2014, an independent community group, the Rotoiti Rotomā Sewerage Steering Committee (RRSSC), was implemented by RDC to explore future options. This group comprised representative members from the two communities including technical advisors and a cultural impact team. From here, a preferred option was developed based on factors such as cultural preference, resilience in the event of natural disasters along with technical and social requirements. This recommendation was included as a Discussion Document in RDC’s Long Term Council Plan 2015-25.

Further progress made during the course of 2015 saw a local treatment site behind Emery’s Store, Rotoiti on Haumingi 9B3B Trust land being secured, work commencing on detailed plant design and Resource Consent requirements including cultural assessments. Locations for a Biolytix trial in Rotoiti were also finalised. An information pamphlet covering comprehensive details of the proposed scheme including approximate timelines was delivered to all mailboxes in the scheme area in December of that year.

More Information can be found on the Rotorua Lakes Council website.

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