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Published: 2008-05-07 00:00:00

An Environment Waikato hearing committee has approved a resource consent that will help to alleviate a significant public health risk caused by failing septic tanks in Piopio.

The resource consent will allow highly treated wastewater to be discharged into the Mokau River, from a new wastewater treatment plant Waitomo District Council is proposing to build.

To help address iwi concerns about wastewater discharges to the Mokau River, the committee has supported the establishment of a Community Liaison Group which would include local hapu representatives.

The group will allow iwi and the community access to information about the wastewater treatment plant and provide a forum for discussions relating to the environmental and cultural effects of the proposed discharge.

Waitomo District Council has been consulting with the community over how to address sewage disposal issues in Piopio since 1997.

Many septic tanks in the town are failing, resulting in the potential for sewage to contaminate soils, groundwater and local streams.

Options for treating wastewater in Piopio have been considered for some 20 years.

As a result, Waitomo District Council applied to itself last year for a land use consent to build a wastewater treatment plant on the corner of Moa and Tui Streets, Piopio.

It also applied to Environment Waikato for a resource consent to discharge treated wastewater from the proposed new wastewater treatment plant to the Mokau River.

The district council appointed a commissioner to consider the land use consent application. Environment Waikato appointed a hearing committee to consider the wastewater discharge consent application.

The applications were considered at a joint Environment Waikato and Waitomo District Council hearing in Te Kuiti from April 7-8.

The two councils made separate decisions and the information below relates to Environment Waikato’s hearing committee’s decision. For information on the land use consent application please contact Waitomo District Council.

Parties opposed to, and in favour of, the discharge proposal spoke at the joint hearing.

Iwi representatives outlined a number of issues, including cultural concerns over wastewater being discharged to the Mokau River.

After carefully weighing up all the evidence, the committee determined the wastewater discharge proposal was “appropriate and necessary”, and was the best option to address a “significant risk to public health”.

The committee was satisfied the applicant had undertaken a sound evaluation of the alternatives for wastewater disposal and had made “an informed and reasoned decision on the most feasible and appropriate option to pursue”.

The committee granted the resource consent application subject to a number of conditions, finding that the proposed discharge:

  • was consistent with the purpose and principles of the Resource Management Act and Environment Waikato plans and policies
  • was considered sustainable
  • was unlikely to have any significant adverse effects on the environment.