A Waitomo Caves tourism operator has pleaded with the district council to take ownership of the ageing water and wastewater plant it operates at the tourist village.
Shelley Katae, tourism operations manager for publicly listed Tourism Holdings Ltd, led a dozen-strong delegation of tourism operators to Waitomo District Council recently to ask for a transfer of ownership of the 50-year-old plant to the local authority.
The plant, including sewage ponds behind the rugby fields, was built to service the formerly government-owned Waitomo Caves Hotel in the mid 1960s and bought by Tourism Holdings in 1996. The company was concerned it would be liable for any failures at the plant which needed about $1.7 million spent on it.
Because it was a listed company, Tourism Holdings had no access to engineering expertise or subsidies and no power to require others to connect to the system.
"We have spent a lot in terms of maintenance in the last few years including $130,000 two years ago to clear the sludge out of the sewage ponds," she said. "We have been running this at a loss. THL is a publicly listed company and we have no desire to keep doing that. This is not our core business. We are doing the best that we can, but it's not our area of expertise and there's some risk in that area."
There would be more demand when a new hotel and conference centre opened in the village.
Mayor Brian Hanna said if the council took it on, there would be a compulsion for everyone in the village to join up.
At the moment 30 consumers took water from the scheme, but only 10 used the sewage plant. "The wider we can spread it, the least cost," Mr Hanna said.
Council chief executive Chris Ryan said that everyone in Waitomo would probably have to pay for the plant through rates if the council took it over.
Waitomo Caves manager Robert Tahi, who has looked after the plant for 30 years, said more efficient plants could replace it. "You have got a lot of the major stakeholders here. You probably will have individuals that may object. It would be no different to anything else [the] council does."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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