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The Council will question wastewater discharge requirements set out in the government’s National Policy Statement on Freshwater (NPSFW) and seek a more affordable and environmentally beneficial solution.

Resource consents for all six of the Council’s wastewater treatment plants are due to expire before 2022. The findings of a report prepared by a Councillor working party in collaboration with engineering consultants Harrison Grierson, show the cost of upgrading all plants to meet discharge requirements in the NPSFW is likely to be somewhere between $40million and $60million.

“While we strongly support the desire to improve the overall quality of the rivers in the Hauraki District and, by default, the Firth of Thames, we are concerned about the proposed methodology of achieving that,” said Mayor Tregidga.

Scientific testing in 2013 showed the Ngatea wastewater treatment plant, which is currently in the process of renewing its consent, contributes less than 0.4% of the total Nitrogen and Phosphorus levels in the Piako River, and has a limited effect on the overall health of the river. To upgrade the plant to meet NPSFW requirements would cost between $5million and $15million.

“Don’t get me wrong, the equivalent of 32 truckloads of nitrates is entering the Firth of Thames every single week and we absolutely have to do something about that,” said Tregidga, “But we need to look at this in a bigger way. What is the point of spending millions to upgrade the Ngatea wastewater treatment plant, when it’s such a small part of the overall problem?”

He says under the new regime, affordability for the community is a real issue with upgrades to all plants likely to add more than $300 to annual rates.

The Council believes a better result could be achieved by working collaboratively with Waikato Regional Council on an offset regime that has the potential to provide better cost-benefit for communities and a superior environmental outcome.

“One out of the box suggestion from the working party is that Council funds a contribution to farmers in the district to improve the quality of the effluent discharge from farms,” said Tregidga.

While continuing to question the thinking behind the proposed discharge requirements, Council will work together with communities, Iwi, Local Government and Central Government to develop understanding and preferred solutions.