A Paeroa meat processing company has been granted a 15 year resource consent to discharge treated meat processing wastewater into the Ohinemuri River.
PPCS Paeroa Limited applied to Environment Waikato to authorise the discharge of up to 1,300 cubic metres per day of treated meat processing wastewater. Seven submissions were received from Fish and Game New Zealand, Hauraki District Council, neighbours, iwi groups and Waikato District Health Board.
The company intends to continue processing bobby calves and applied for authorisation to discharge potential odour from the wastewater treatment system, and potential seepage to groundwater from the wastewater ponds.
It asked to increase the maximum daily discharge volume from 700 cubic metres per day to 1300 cubic metres per day to provide for increased production from 2400 bobby calves to 4000 bobby calves a day. The company intends to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant in three stages, so that the effect on the Ohinemuri River remained similar to current effects.
It had improved the rock filter in response to iwi concerns, and offered to continue the riparian zone alongside the Tarariki Stream for an additional 550 metres to the confluence with the Ohinemuri River. Other disposal options, such as land irrigation or discharge into the Paeroa sewage system as a trade waste, were not feasible.
Present effects of the effluent discharge on the Ohinemuri River were only minor, and the river recovered from these effects within four weeks of the end of the processing season.
Submitters were concerned about adequate consultation and iwi groups said the river was used for swimming during the summer months. The Tarariki Stream was also important to Paeroa College students for aquatic studies. Submitters were also concerned about riparian zone management and wanted an annual review, with a 10 year consent term.
The Ohinemuri River was important as a trout fishery and rated very highly by anglers. It was used as a regular venue for local, regional, national and international fly fishing competitions. Angling occurred all year round, and was only slightly less frequent during bobby calf season.
Environment Waikato resource officer Barry Campbell said the discharge effectively occurred during a three month period in winter when there was limited recreational use of the river. Adverse effects on the river quality and biota during this winter period were minor and acceptable in terms of the Resource Management Act and statutory requirements. Protection of river biota and recreational and amenity values of the Ohinemuri River had been a major consideration.
The Committee said the Ohinemuri River had excessive nitrogen concentrations already, largely as a result of non-point agricultural sources upstream, which was not satisfactory, but a reality. Requiring the applicant to remove a greater proportion of the nitrogen would impose a disproportionate burden for little or no environmental or community benefit.
The consent provided a clear timeframe for reducing nitrogen loads by 2007. Upgrading the plant would be necessary even without an increase in stock processing, but would be critical if the numbers of bobby calves processed increased. Reducing the nitrogen load would be a reasonable approach to a difficult situation. Riparian planting should be kept as flexible as possible to allow maximum involvement by the local community where practicable.
A 15 year term was consistent with most industrial discharge consents in the Waikato, where adverse effects are relatively minor. The company had offered substantial mitigation by of riparian planting for the adverse effects.