Maori tell council to get real on water

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 24/01/2014

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Manawatu Maori leaders have accused the Palmerston North City Council of ignoring cultural values in its handling of the city's wastewater discharge to the Manawatu River.

Their submission on Horizons Regional Council's review of the discharge consent conditions seeks an overhaul of the entire discharge consent, not just minor changes to conditions.

Horizons moved last year to notify changes to the conditions after finding the discharge was having significant adverse effects on aquatic life downstream of the Totara Rd wastewater treatment plant.

The two councils teamed up to undertake further studies on the extent and causes of the changes.

Both phosphorus and nitrogen were identified as contributing to increased algal growth that changed the bug populations that fish feed on at times of low river flows.

The city council's response to the findings was a proposal to set up another step in its treatment process to reduce particulate phosphorus in the discharge.

The price of the disc filtration system has been estimated at $2.9 million. It has not proposed any steps to reduce the amount of nitrogen in the discharge.

Submitter The Catalyst Group, which includes former Horizons regulatory group manager Greg Carlyon, has described the city council's response as inconsistent with a range of plans to improve water quality.

The Tanenuiarangi Manawatu and Te Mauri O Rangitane O Manawatu council of elders submission was written by Massey University Institute of Natural Resources research officer Jonathan Procter.

It said the scientific reports raised more questions than answers.

It wanted Horizons to retain the key consent condition about not causing "significant adverse effects on aquatic life" rather than replace it with scientific measures.

"This weakens our cultural view and definition of the life-supporting capacity of the water.

"PNCC has failed to recognise the importance of our ancestral water, sites, waahi tapu and taonga."

Ngati Takihiku and other submitters from Shannon said the discharge to water was culturally offensive.

Of the 38 submissions, several others including Waitarere Beach resident Susanne Hanlon have called for a total review of the consent, and for a move to land-based treatment, an option rejected by the city council 10 years ago because of the cost.

The New Zealand Defence Force has backed the city council's proposed disc filtration system as a reasonable and correct response to effects it said were not significant.

"It is important to consider the costs and benefits of any additional treatment options," it said in its submission.

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Federated Farmers said its members were continuously required to improve on-farm practices in the interest of water quality, and all parts of the community, including the city, must be prepared to do the same.

City council water and waste services manager Rob Green said it would be inappropriate to respond to submitters' comments at this stage.

The next step in the review process will be a pre-hearing meeting including all interested parties.

Massey University resource and environmental planning lecturer Associate Professor Christine Cheyne was among those who said such a collaboration was more likely to produce a good result than an often-adversarial formal hearing.

Horizons senior consents planner Phillip Hindrup said the pre-hearing, for which a date was yet to be set, would be held in private, with media and anyone who did not make a submission excluded.

However, additional information would be released in February which would be available to the general public, as would any hearing evidence prepared following the meeting.

- Manawatu Standard

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