Te Anau sewerage scheme opponents claim $6m savings possible

Commissioners  from left, Rob Potts, Denis Nugent and Yvette Couch-Lewis at the sewerage hearings in Te Anau.
Barry Harcourt

Commissioners from left, Rob Potts, Denis Nugent and Yvette Couch-Lewis at the sewerage hearings in Te Anau.

Opponents of a controversial proposed sewerage scheme for Te Anau claim an alternative scheme could save $6 million.

Fiordland Sewage Options Inc chairman Alistair Paton-McDonald said savings of between $1m and $6m could be made, should the Southland District Council choose any of the options the group has proposed.

In January, three commissioners approved consents for the Southland District Council to designate land for wastewater treatment, as well as an application to discharge wastewater onto land and odour to air to replace Te Anau's existing scheme, which results in wastewater being discharged to the Upukerora River.

READ MORE: Committee for sewerage scheme

Effluent would be treated and pumped from Te Anau to land next to the Te Anau Airport, near Manapouri, via a 19km pipeline, where it would then be spread over land using pivot irrigators.

Fiordland Sewage Options Inc was formed by submitters against the proposal, and now with more than 500 members, is appealing the decision to approve consents to the Environment Court.

The council's budget for the project which was at first between $9m and $11m, has gradually been increasing because of hearing costs and appeals, and is now between $12m and $13m.

Paton-McDonald said the group wants the sewage to be substantially treated before it is discharged to land via underground disposal, or subsurface drip irrigation (SDI).

SDI is an irrigation method that delivers water to the plant root zone where it can be most effectively used. 

The group has put forward two treatment options which, depending on the location of where the wastewater is pumped to, could save the council between $1million and $6million, Paton-McDonald said.

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"These figures are an under-estimation, not an over-estimation."

One option is for the ponds to be upgraded using a system called the Intermittently Decanted Extended Aeration Lagoon (IDEAL), the other is to use a membrane filter.

Some of the money would be saved by avoiding having to build the pipeline, which was expected to cost $4.5m, he said.

The group has also identified land closer to Te Anau than the farmland the council wanted to use, which is how further savings could be made, he said.

"We have a tentative agreement [with the farmer who has] accepted it in principle." 

Purchase of the farmer's land was not factored into the budgets from the group, but Paton-McDonald believed the sale of land already owned by the council for the approved proposal would more than cover the costs.

"The farmer we have in mind is amicable to discuss options. [The council] don't necessarily need to purchase the land." 

The alternative options were given to Mayor Gary Tong about a month ago, and the group's engineering consultant, Peter Riddell, of Auckland, had met with Tong, he said.

He supported the council's decision to form a special committee to deal with the Te Anau sewerage scheme on March 18, but he believed the committee had not been finalised.

The council Manapouri Community Development Area Subcommittee and Te Anau Community Board were yet to elect their representatives to the group, which then must be ratified by the council, which could be a month away, he said. 

The group believed its proposal was better because its impact on the environment was minimal, he said.

"Our total proposal is on the basis that we're not spraying into the atmosphere," he said.

Tong could not be reached for comment.

 - The Southland Times

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