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Published: 2009-05-12 00:00:00

An Environment Waikato hearing committee has recommended that the Minister of Conservation grant resource consent to Thames-Coromandel District Council so the council can continue discharging treated wastewater into the Waihou River from its existing sewage treatment facility in Thames.

The Minister of Conservation has the final say on the decision because the wastewater discharge is a restricted coastal activity.

The Minister will approve or decline the resource consents after an appeal period, during which time members of the public will have an opportunity to make submissions on the Environment Waikato hearing committee’s recommendation.

The hearing committee recommended the consents be granted subject to a range of conditions, including a requirement to do some upgrades at the plant and to meet set discharge standards.  The council would also have to monitor river water quality.

In its report, the committee commended the district council for its proactive stance on undertaking “wide ranging and extensive” consultation with the community.

It noted several submitters had sought that either the council’s existing wastewater ponds be relocated, or the wastewater be discharged at another site.

It concluded the council had assessed a range of alternatives, but agreed with the council’s finding that a discharge into the Waihou River was currently the most suitable option for a variety of financial and practical reasons.

After carefully considering all the evidence, the committee concluded the proposed activities would not have any significant environmental effects, providing consent conditions were followed.

It recommended the consents be granted for a 10-year period.

The resource consent applications were heard at a hearing in Thames from April 22-23 by a hearing committee comprising two commissioners appointed by Environment Waikato and one commissioner appointed by the Department of Conservation.

The hearing committee also granted resource consents to Thames-Coromandel District Council for two activities relating to the operation of the sewage plant – discharging contaminants to air and using and maintaining structures in the Coastal Marine Area.

Environment Waikato has jurisdiction over these matters, so they do not need to be approved by the Minister of Conservation.