Fiordland sewerage options - the story so far

One of the early protest signs, in 2014, for the Te Anau-Manapouri sewerage scheme.
Barry Harcourt

One of the early protest signs, in 2014, for the Te Anau-Manapouri sewerage scheme.

The Southland District Council will hold a "community conversations" meeting for the Te Anau/Manapouri area at the Te Anau Club at 6pm Wednesday May 25 . Among the topics will be the contentious wastewater disposal scheme. Ruth Shaw of Fiordland Sewerage Options backgrounds the issue and council chief executive Steve Ruru adds the council's perspective.

By Ruth Shaw

A 25 year consent was granted to the Southland District Council in January 2015 permitting partially treated wastewater from Te Anau to be discharged via rotary irrigators onto land at the Kepler Block beside the Te Anau Manapouri Airport.

This consent has been appealed to the Environment Court by three appellants, one being Fiordland Sewerage Options Inc. Consent has not yet been granted for the 19km pipeline to transfer the wastewater to the Kepler site, or for any associated construction works.

The advance of an acceptable solution is at a crossroads as the June 20-21 dates have been set for court-facilitated mediation.

The council has been presented with four fully costed alternatives by FSO's consultant, which we believe have better cultural, environmental, financial and social benefits than the proposed scheme at Kepler.

These options only require a mature round table discussion by the council and the appellants at mediation to ensure that the advantages from the latest of world wide technologies are adopted.

This will ensure that costs will be kept down and rate increases to all Southlanders will be minimised. One of the options put forward also allows for staged development which would further ease the financial burden on ratepayers.

The council has the option of persevering with the Kepler proposal which means progressing to the Environment Court, or acknowledging that there are better, lower cost schemes on the table which are worthy of further consideration.

Projected savings on capital expenditure over the Kepler, range from $9 million to $13 million depending on which of the four options is adopted. Basically the cheapest option is $6.25 million, the most expensive $10.5 million.

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All costings include purchase of land, and $500,000 allowed for gaining the necessary resource consents. Further savings of approx.$1.2 million could be achieved with long term lease arrangements for the land.

The consented Kepler proposal being appealed through the Environment Court has been costed out at $19.5million. This includes cost of land purchased and money spent to date on the resource consent process and peer review.

If the Kepler proposal goes ahead, concerns expressed by many of the Manapouri and Te Anau residents will not have been addressed.

These include health and safety issues, degradation of water quality in both the Waiau River and Lake Manapouri, tourists perception of human wastewater being aerial sprayed beside the airport which is the gateway to Fiordland World Heritage Park, escalating capital and operating costs.

Contentious technical issues over nutrient removals and the subsequent grass growth calculations are also questionable, plus groundwater contamination and conforming to ongoing operational and environmental monitoring.

Both the council and the appellants recognise that the right decision needs to be made to develop a wastewater disposal solution which will address all concerns, and serve the Te Anau community in the long term.

All parties are committed to working together towards reaching an agreement which will bring this long debate to a close.


By Steve Ruru

Southland District Council agrees that it is important the right decision is made about what might constitute the best long term solution for the treatment and disposal of Te Anau wastewater. This is why it employed PDP, an independent engineering consultancy, to undertake a peer review of the Kepler option and why Council formed a Project Committee that includes representatives from the Te Anau Community Board and Manapouri CDA. 

The consultant employed by FSO has provided a range of information on alternatives to the consented Kepler option. This information is being considered by PDP and the project committee.

In evaluating the options the committee is being presented with information that looks at the total costs (both capital and operating costs) of the different alternatives over a 25-year period as well as the risks associated with each.

The different options are also being evaluated using a matrix that attempts to evaluate the social, cultural, technical, environmental and economic benefits associated with each option. Looking at the different options using a range of evaluation criteria will assist the committee and council with making the right decision.

The decisions to be made are complex and will take time to work through. There will also be a need for the council to seek and obtain resource consent for any alternative scheme it may decide to pursue.

It would be irresponsible for the council to surrender the Kepler consent prior to it having obtained consent for any alternative scheme that it may decide to pursue.

In the interim the Environment Court has indicated that it will proceed to make a determination in relation to the Kepler resource consent appeal.

This can occur via either the mediation process or a hearing.

The council hopes it can work with FSO to find a practical outcome that keeps costs to a reasonable level. 


 - Stuff


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