Since our last newsletter there have been both developments, and a standing still on the Eastern Rotoiti – Rotoma Sewerage Scheme.
Movement in that the appeals to the Environment Court against the granting of a Resource Consent for a Sewerage Treatment Plant to be built on the edge of Rotoma went ahead when mediation failed to resolve issues raised. The Appeal before the Environment Court lasted 5 days, but was then adjourned with the agreement of all parties to allow RDC to investigate alternative sites within the Consented area. The Court was scheduled to sit again in October.
Standing Still because RDC relinquished the Consent in October and is now exploring other options.
In fact the relinquishing of the Consent for the Treatment Plant was a good result for everyone. The Appeal in the Environment Court showed up many flaws in RDC’s consultation process, and while the science finally seemed to come out favourably for the site (although this was disputed by one of the appellants), it was apparent this was through luck rather than a responsible and comprehensive investigation of the site before purchase. The adjournment of the Hearing and subsequent relinquishment of the Consent perhaps gave Council a graceful way to extract itself from a case it could have easily lost, and of course answered all concerns of the Appellants.
So where are we now?
The most positive thing to come out of the Consent and Appeal process was that RDC came to realise that their pricing model for the scheme was totally out of touch with what the communities affected by the scheme could afford. A determined renegotiation of the funding rules by RDC with central government, and the current economic situation, have meant that RDC was able to revise costs to each household down to a much more realistic level, almost halving the cost.
Of course having to find another way of handling the sewerage treatment may impact on this. RDC is looking at alternative options currently which it is hoped will be put in front of Council for a decision in February 2013. Indications are that the frontrunner options would come in at about the same cost as the now dropped scheme, so that the cost to households would remain approximately the same.
We look forward to being able to report back early in 2013 once Council has met and made a decision on how they intend to deal with the treatment and disposal of waste from the scheme.