Decision time is close for sewerage scheme options for East Rotoiti and Rotoma. The Steering Committee (RRSSC) has narrowed the options to two. They are Option 1 which is ‘piped back to Rotorua’ and Options 2 ‘piped to a single local treatment plant’. In both casesa simplified Option 5A could be used where the main option is not feasible. Option 5A comprises individual household Biolytix tanks with discharge piped to localcarbon beds to further reduce nitrogen and then to local land disposal fields. Cultural considerations are currently being assessed, andthe RRSSC has a target date of mid-November to make recommendations to Rotorua District Council (RDC) on a preferred option. The Ministry of Health (MoH) has allowed a final extension to the subsidy offered to Rotoma to accommodate this.
During July and August the Steering Committee consulted widely with the Rotoma and Rotoiti communities.
Information brochures were produced and mailed out to as many residents and ratepayers as possible. These brochures outlined the options then under consideration. The seven options were:
- Option 1: Piped to Rotorua
- Option 2: A single local treatment plant and land treatment system
- Option 3: Two local treatment plants and land treatment systems
- Option 4: Urine separation, septic tanks and 9 cluster schemes
- Option 5: Small Biolytix clusters
- Option 6: Small Biolytix clusters with urine separation
- Option 7: OSET compliant on-site treatment systems
- and combinations of the above options.
The Information packs included invitations to the meetings or hui that had been organised.Public notices for the meetings and hui were published in local papers.A series of meetings and huiwere held on consecutive weekends at both lakes with presentations and discussions on all options
The communities were invited to provide feedback on the options under consideration, either through the form sent out in the information packs and available at the meetings and hui, or via an online survey on the RDC website.The Information brochure and presentations were available for download on the RDC website.
When consultation was almost complete the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) appointed by the Steering Committee developed a new option it called Option 5A. This replaced Options 4. 5 and-6, but had similarities to earlier Option 5 and some elements of Options 4 and 6. . This simplified and enhanced option was presented at the two Rotoma meetings.
Four general consultation meetings or hui were held and were attended by over 300 people in all. The community was well represented, especially by leaders from iwi and other community groups. In addition Ngati Pikiao held four hui at which presentations were made and options considered.
The communities affected by the proposed sewerage scheme were invited to give feedback on the options proposed.
There was an excellent response to the request for feedback with 220 people giving their views. A strong preference was shown for Option 1 piping back to Rotorua. Of the responses from Rotoiti and Rotoma, 88% preferred Option 1. The next most preferred option was Option 2 with 7% and 3% respectively for each lake. There was no support at these lakes for Options 4-6, and only 2% at Rotoiti preferred the fallback option of OSET. Among the very small numbers to the south of Rotoehu, Option 1 and Option 5A both got equal support.
When asked to express their likes or dislike of the various options, Option 1 was strongly liked or liked by 89%, followed well back by Option 2 at 33% More than half strongly disliked or disliked each of Options 4-7.
Since Option 5A was not developed until late in the consultation programme, most people did not have a chance to give their views on it. However Options 4, 5 and 6 which had similarities received no support at all.
Technical Advisory Group
When the RRSSC was formed it appointed a Technical Advisory Group to assist the committee in assessing the sewerage options subsequently developed.
While consultation was underway the TAG was also refining, evaluating and reportingon the options. Options 4,5 and 6 were dropped, and a new one called Option 5A was proposed. It has Biolytix treatment tanks (or similar) at each household. From each individual tank in a cluster of households the outflow would be pumped toa local carbon bed to reduce the level of nitrogen, and then to land disposal fields. (There would be about 9 clusters in total.)
The TAG considered the following criteria:
• Lake water quality.
• Public health.
• Validation of technology, and
• Economic matters.
As a technical group, and complying with its terms of reference, it did not consider cultural and social matters.
After evaluation of all options, the TAG recommended the following options to the Committee:
|First||Option 1 -Piped to Rotorua||Option 1 – Piped to Rotorua|
|Second||Option 2 – Single Treatment Plant and Land Treatment System||Option 5A – Household Biolytix, Cluster Carbon-bed and Land Disposal|
|Third||Option 5A – Household Biolytix, Cluster Carbon-bed and Land Disposal||Option 2 – Single Treatment Plant and Land Treatment System and Option 3 – Two Treatment Plants and Land Treatment System|
|Fourth||Option 3. Two Treatment Plants and Land Treatment System|
The TAG noted that a final decision could include a combination of options.
It also noted that the ranking of these four options was within the level of error such that no option could be described as the Preferred Option. The importance of taking into account cultural and social factors before final ranking and choice of Preferred Option was emphasised by TAG members.
Steering Committee meetings
Since the public consultation period the RRSSC has met on 18 August and 15 September. At its August meeting the committee agreed that:
- It would drop Option 3 from consideration unless some striking new information comes forward.
- If Option 1 or Option 2 doesn’t work in some place for some reason then it would expect Option 5A to be part of the scheme for that locality. If Option 5A doesn’t work there then the default is OSET, outside the scheme and unsubsidised.
- It would not try to discriminate between Options 1 and 2 as yet. (The reason was that cultural issues could be particularly significant with them, and the committee needed to allow for an assessment of cultural issues to be completed.
The provision of cultural input is being led by kaumatua members of the RRSSC and a report back to the committee is expected early in November.
Extension of Ministry of Health Subsidy Deadline
The Ministry of Health (MoH) long ago approved a subsidy of up to $4.46m for sewerage for Rotoma. RDC is required to meet several deadlines of which the first was deciding by 30 September upon a preferred option for sewerage. That deadline had been extended twice already. The Ngati Pikiao Environmental Society on their own initiative asked the Associate Minister of Health for a further extension of the deadline, and the RRSSC supported this. The extension was to enable iwi to make recommendations on cultural issues with less pressure of time.
On 16 September the Minister wrote approving an extension until 20 February 2015. In her letter she said: “…I continue to be supportive of this project and am very keen for it to succeed. I have therefore looked favourably at requests for extensions to-date; however, this should not be assumed going forward.” The extension is much appreciated.
The RRSSC has set itself a deadline of mid-November to make a recommendation to RDC on a Preferred Option. This will enable RDC to fulfil its responsibilities to make a decision on a Preferred Option and advise the MoH before 20 February 2015.
Large subsidies are also available from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council (BOPRC) the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) and RDC. The amount varies somewhat for each option. Those from BOPRC and MfE would total about $12.9 million for Option 1. They are conditional on the option chosen being the best option for reducing nutrients, unless some other good reason for its choice exists. The RDC subsidy is $1,500 per household.
Thus the total subsidy available, if the Preferred Option is acceptable to the subsidy providers, is about $18.4 million plus any extra subsidy from BOPRC (see below).
Application for extra subsidy
The RRSSC has been concerned at the cost to local households of all the options (including the default of no sewerage, and OSET rules applying without subsidies). The cost is such that many low income households will find it difficult to pay. An application was therefore made to both RDC and BOPRC for extra help.
RDC leadership were supportive but considered that extra money would be very difficult to find. This was because of the large expenditure required to shift discharge of treated wastewater away from the Whakarewarewa forest, and the existing high levels of borrowing by RDC. Furthermore the main reason for sewerage is lake water quality which is a regional rather than a district responsibility.
A delegation from RRSSC led by Sir Toby Curtis, together with Davey Gardiner and Ian McLean, met with the leadership of BOPRC and sought $4m in extra subsidy. The purpose is to make sure that the Rotoma scheme goes ahead and protects Lake Rotoma by reducing phosphorus inflows. Because the cheapest options for Rotoma (Options 1 and 2) involve joint schemes with Rotoiti, the application sought to reduce the cost to both lakes to a more affordable level. This would mean a reduction in the cost per household in both communities to about over $1050 a year for Option 1 (GST inclusive, and with capital charge spread over 25 years).
The delegation was very well received and closely questioned on the issues relating to sewage at the lakes. The chair of BOPRC, Doug Leeder, agreed that that the funding would be considered for inclusion in the BOPRC Long Term Plan, currently in preparation. Success will depend on the business case presented, and this subsidy will need to compete with the other proposals for capital spending in the Long Term Plan.
The comments by the Chair of the Regional Council were most heartening and much appreciated. He said that he does not want to adopt makeshift remedies, even if it is necessary to bite the bullet.
Kennedy Bay and Otautu Bay households had been excluded from a previous planned scheme at residents’ request following a survey of opinion. Respecting this decision, RRSSC had decided not to take any action regarding the inclusion of Kennedy Bay and Otautu Bay. At the public meetings a request was made by some Rotoehu residents for their Bays to be included in any proposed scheme. RDC have agreed to listen to ratepayers and residents and a meeting has been arranged at Otautu Bay on Saturday 4 October at 1 pm.
The RRSSC has taken no position on the inclusion of these two communities. Individual members of the committee have expressed their view that the Rotoehu people would be welcome to join should they so desire, under the principle of tatou tatou. The fallback option of OSET is becoming clearer so the two communities will be able to make an informed decision. Any decision on Rotoehu will not affect the choices or timing for Rotoiti and Rotoma.
The RRSSC has made considerable progress. It has operated with great goodwill and considerable patience shown by stakeholders as it has worked to decisions. Much now depends on the input from iwi currently being developed. When this is crystallised, the RRSSC as a whole will need to consider which option to recommend, taking into account its goals and all other factors.
Crunch-time is rapidly approaching. Extensions of the MoH subsidy deadlines cannot be expected, in light of the Minister’s letter. The support shown by community for the RRSSC suggests that a constructive agreed recommendation for the Preferred Option is possible.
 Rotoma Rotoiti Sewerage Steering Committee (RRSSC).