Forget the $68m system

Review group to refine wastewater options for community consultation.

Review group to refine wastewater options for community consultation.

A WIDE range of options, including a “full Monty” wetlands system, will be investigated before a recommendation is made to Gisborne District Council on the next stage of upgrading the city’s wastewater treatment.

There was clear acknowledgement at this week’s wastewater management committee meeting that treatment estimated costs of up to $68 million were too high and that various options presented by consultants BECA would have to be examined and adjusted.

The committee eventually adopted a recommendation — to be put to the council at its next meeting — to undertake consultation, detailed design and planning work on the constructed wetlands option.

This will determine whether the wetland is the preferred option for Gisborne’s wastewater by December 31, 2017 in order for the necessary consents to be lodged by 2018.

The chief executive was instructed to convene a wastewater options review group to refine the options for community consultation in June 2017.

There was agreement that this group should be based on the present committee, with extra expertise added.

The committee was given a detailed outline of five options by BECA representatives Garry Macdonald and Rachael Shaw.

These included mechanical treatment at the existing Banks Street plant and a variation of wetland options that could then be discharged to a habitat wetlands.

The most expensive option — a full-scale wetland that achieved the highest level of treatment — was dubbed “the full Monty”, costing $68.4 million.

Other options

Other possible options could include hybrids involving the Banks Street plant and the wetlands.

Mr Macdonald said there were different building blocks within these options and it was now up to the review group to look at these and bring back its options to the committee.

The committee was told the options presented did not include land purchase and were based on having to pipe the wastewater four, six or eight kilometres. The wetlands could involve a land area of up to 100 hectares, the size of Gisborne Airport.

Wastewater technical advisory group chairman Dr Bruce Duncan said they believed a combination of wetlands, high rate algal ponds and habitat wetland would achieve all the technical goals required and offer the best approach to achieve mauri (vital essence) of water and biotransformation.

The WTAG, established in 2009 to advise the committee on technical issues, had reached a natural break point in its current technical advice to the committee, he said.

GDC chief executive Judy Campbell said it was “very nice” of The Gisborne Herald to put the most expensive option in its headline but “all of us need to consider cost and benefit, and $68 million was not in anybody’s mind when we started this”.

The council’s Future Tairawhiti committee would have a full discussion about water in the region. That would include the DrainWise programme and stormwater getting into the wastewater system.

“Ultimately as you measure up these costs and benefits you will have to measure up the difference between the cost and benefits of getting the wastewater to the treatment plant versus treating it,” she said.

“As you know, at the moment it is spilled into the river. It is not treated at all,” she said.

The council would have to weigh up all these options and there would be a significant public debate. The relationship between the community’s desires and its ability to pay needed to come back to the table, and that included iwi.

Committee chairman Bill Burdett said this was a milestone in the history of the committee and of the management of wastewater in the district.

A WIDE range of options, including a “full Monty” wetlands system, will be investigated before a recommendation is made to Gisborne District Council on the next stage of upgrading the city’s wastewater treatment.

There was clear acknowledgement at this week’s wastewater management committee meeting that treatment estimated costs of up to $68 million were too high and that various options presented by consultants BECA would have to be examined and adjusted.

The committee eventually adopted a recommendation — to be put to the council at its next meeting — to undertake consultation, detailed design and planning work on the constructed wetlands option.

This will determine whether the wetland is the preferred option for Gisborne’s wastewater by December 31, 2017 in order for the necessary consents to be lodged by 2018.

The chief executive was instructed to convene a wastewater options review group to refine the options for community consultation in June 2017.

There was agreement that this group should be based on the present committee, with extra expertise added.

The committee was given a detailed outline of five options by BECA representatives Garry Macdonald and Rachael Shaw.

These included mechanical treatment at the existing Banks Street plant and a variation of wetland options that could then be discharged to a habitat wetlands.

The most expensive option — a full-scale wetland that achieved the highest level of treatment — was dubbed “the full Monty”, costing $68.4 million.

Other options

Other possible options could include hybrids involving the Banks Street plant and the wetlands.

Mr Macdonald said there were different building blocks within these options and it was now up to the review group to look at these and bring back its options to the committee.

The committee was told the options presented did not include land purchase and were based on having to pipe the wastewater four, six or eight kilometres. The wetlands could involve a land area of up to 100 hectares, the size of Gisborne Airport.

Wastewater technical advisory group chairman Dr Bruce Duncan said they believed a combination of wetlands, high rate algal ponds and habitat wetland would achieve all the technical goals required and offer the best approach to achieve mauri (vital essence) of water and biotransformation.

The WTAG, established in 2009 to advise the committee on technical issues, had reached a natural break point in its current technical advice to the committee, he said.

GDC chief executive Judy Campbell said it was “very nice” of The Gisborne Herald to put the most expensive option in its headline but “all of us need to consider cost and benefit, and $68 million was not in anybody’s mind when we started this”.

The council’s Future Tairawhiti committee would have a full discussion about water in the region. That would include the DrainWise programme and stormwater getting into the wastewater system.

“Ultimately as you measure up these costs and benefits you will have to measure up the difference between the cost and benefits of getting the wastewater to the treatment plant versus treating it,” she said.

“As you know, at the moment it is spilled into the river. It is not treated at all,” she said.

The council would have to weigh up all these options and there would be a significant public debate. The relationship between the community’s desires and its ability to pay needed to come back to the table, and that included iwi.

Committee chairman Bill Burdett said this was a milestone in the history of the committee and of the management of wastewater in the district.

A query about the land needed for a wetlands system to treat the city’s wastewater was made by iwi representative LeRoy Pardoe at the meeting of the wastewater management committee.

The committee had listened to a presentation on the various options for moving to the next stage of the resource consent required to upgrade the wastewater. This included a wetlands habitat covering as much as 100 hectares.

Mr Pardoe said all these options were based on the premise of land being available somewhere but no one was saying where this might be. He expected that once a location was established, it would change the equation for the proposed costs and options for treatment.

That was the elephant in the room, he said.

District council chief executive Judy Campbell said that would be part of the discussions on the potential options. It could possibly be located on land the council owned.

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