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Tararua council lands key consent

After more than a decade of operating on an expired consent and multiple rounds in court, Tararua District Council finally has consent for its Woodville Wastewater Treatment Plant.

A recent Environment Court decision granted Tararua District Council [TDC] a 15-year consent to continue operations at the plant and to allow for the discharge of treated wastewater into the Manga-atua Stream.

The consent also provides for 2,500m2 of earthworks and discharge to a semi-permeable but currently non-existent wetland.

The three-bay wetland, divided into a vertical flow wetland, surface flow wetland, and biodiversity wetland, would cover more than 10,000m2, and sit between the treatment plant and the Manga-atua Stream.

Mayor Tracey Collis said the council was yet to see the papers, but it would be a relief to see the Woodville Wastewater Treatment Plant [WWTP], which currently provides for a population of 1400, compliant.

She said resource consent applications were typically lengthy, and the process for the Woodville plant, in particular, provided valuable council lessons.

“Our entire environmental understanding has changed. We are counting the vertebrae in the area, and are making sure we are not causing any harm.

“If I were to do it again, I would have the very first meeting on the land.

“It’s a different view of council efficiency, but to be standing on the land and seeing it, it’s important, especially for iwi.”

Collis said the wetland was “nature’s filter” and the planned for construction in Woodville this year, would not be the first in the Tararua District.

A blessing for wetland construction in Eketahuna took place at the end of last year, where treated wastewater would be discharged before entering the Makakahi River.

“They will certainly be working to that [2023 start]. The Eketahuna consent is a little further ahead.

“I know there is a lot of demand for riparian planting. The plants [for Eketahuna] were ordered 12 months ago.”

Since an application was put on hold in 2010, the WWTP has been operating on an expired consent with the Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council.

A further resource application lodged in 2018, highlighting treatment plant upgrades and further iwi engagement, was subsequently in and out of the Environment Court with interested parties disputing the consent term.

TDC and an individual known as J Bent appealed a consent granted by the regional council in August 2021, with the district council applying for a longer, 20-year consent term, while Bent argued the consent should be no more than seven years.

In August last year, the Environment Court made an interim decision in favour of the regional council, granting a 15-year consent term with conditions concerning the Best Practicable Option relating to the tertiary treatment plant, and a baseline for measuring soluble inorganic nitrogen [SIN] removal achieved in a wetland treatment system.

Rangitane o Tamaki-Nui-a-Rua submitted that it was neutral with regard to the appeal.

The regional council and TDC filed a joint memorandum to the court in November, advising a specific baseline for SIN removal and other amended conditions.

The court said the appeal was the third in a series of appeals in the Tararua District, the previous two being wastewater discharges in Pahiatua and Eketahuna.

Ultimately, it found the consent would provide a sustainable means for wastewater treatment and disposal, reduce contaminants, and avoid direct discharge into waterways.

Collis said Eketahuna’s wetland construction cost had already risen with inflationary pressures and expected the same for Woodville.

She said the council would likely discuss WWTP’s consent at the first meeting of the year, due to take place at the end of this month.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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