Taipa wastewater consents granted

6 Sep 2019, 8:00 AM

Independent commissioners have granted new resource consents for the Far North District Council’s (FNDC) East Coast Wastewater Treatment Plant at Taipa after a hearing more than a decade after they were first applied for.

The two commissioners – Dr Rob Lieffering (chair) and Antoine Coffin – heard the FNDC’s applications on behalf of the Northland Regional Council (NRC) over three days at Taipa in June this year.

In a comprehensive, just-released decision running to more than 60 pages, the duo grants the FNDC three consents it requires for the treatment plant for an eight-year period and subject to a raft of conditions.

The FNDC lodged its application for the consents needed for the plant in late May 2008, several months before its existing consents expired in late November that year, meaning it could continue to operate the plant under the expired consent conditions until the application for new consents were determined.

The application was publicity notified in July 2010, attracting more than 50 submissions, all but three effectively opposed to the application.
In their decision, the commissioners grant three consents;

  • To discharge treated municipal wastewater to an unnamed tributary of Te Wai o Te Parapara (Parapara Stream)
  • To discharge contaminants to land from the base of a wastewater treatment system
  • To discharge contaminants to air (primarily odour) from a wastewater treatment system.

Among the various consent conditions are that the volume of treated wastewater discharged to the tributary can’t exceed 790 cubic metres a day based on a ‘rolling 30-day average dry weather flow’.

The FNDC is also required to set up (by 01 October this year) a working group to ‘provide for the involvement of Ngati Kahu’ in a range of matters related to the consent, including development of a quantitative microbiological risk assessment (QMRA).

Group members must include three tangata whenua-appointed members of Ngati Kahu and two senior officers appointed by the FNDC, the latter supported by an independent specialist wastewater engineer.

The QRMA will look at what risks treated wastewater from the plant poses to people’s health ‘as affected by their contact with water in, and consumption of aquatic species’ from the Awapoko River and estuary which are located downstream of the discharge point.

Depending on the results of the QRMA, consent conditions include a variety of other follow up conditions/actions the FNDC must then take.

The FNDC has also been given until 01 September next year (subs: 2020) to provide a report to the Northland Regional Council examining options for disposing treated wastewater from the plant.

The report must include a recommendation as to which disposal option is considered to be the best practicable option (BPO) and must include the option of disposing the treated wastewater to land “and must identify the costs and benefits of all practicable disposal options”.

If that report determines a change to land disposal is the BPO the FNDC has until 01 July 2021 to advise the NRC if it’s committing to land disposal. (The delay acknowledges the FNDC may need to consult with the local community and associated funding requirements may need to go through/be approved via its Long Term Plan or Annual Plan processes.)

If the FNDC does ultimately commit to a land-based disposal system (the preference of submitters) a new system must be commissioned by September 2025.

The commissioners’ decision is subject to appeal for 15 working days.

Their full decision – including details of all the conditions – is available online at www.nrc.govt.nz/consentdecisions