Wastewater projects threaten the 2 percent rates rise target

EDITORIAL

Two major wastewater projects are fast developing into headaches for Gisborne District Council and could threaten its target of restricting annual overall rates rises to 2 percent.

The wastewater management project, previously known as the wetlands trial, has already seen $2.26 million spent or committed — $1.75m more than budgeted by this stage — of the $12m allocated in the Long-Term Plan.

In a column this week, councillor Pat Seymour said this had primarily been spent on a trial for a wetlands option that might prove to be unfeasible.

A wetlands was promoted to the council as a way to save millions compared with the cost of further treatment through a second biological trickling filter plant (the first cost close to $40m), as well as boosting biodiversity.

There was a great deal of enthusiasm for the wetlands option, and volunteers have put a lot of time into it. However, the council might be cooling on a wetlands after being told up to 30 hectares of valuable flat land would be required. If so, the $9.74m remaining in the LTP for this project will almost certainly be well short of what is needed.

At the same time the council will not be able to spend all the $8.8m allocated this financial year for the DrainWise project, which is aimed at preventing wastewater discharges into the city rivers by removing intrusions from private properties through illegal connections, or surface water getting into gully traps.

This is a project the public has strongly called for and the council, which has allocated $27m to it, is being urged to proceed faster — which would increase costs.

A major problem is that it is also going to involve expenditure from individual property owners, and the council might have to look at providing loans so homeowners can get the work done and pay it back over time. Even then it would still face considerable angst over the costs and enforcement.

In any case, the 2 percent rates target much valued by the Mayor is starting to look shaky. There is a meeting of the Future Tairawhiti committee next week. Look for these two subjects to come up.

Two major wastewater projects are fast developing into headaches for Gisborne District Council and could threaten its target of restricting annual overall rates rises to 2 percent.

The wastewater management project, previously known as the wetlands trial, has already seen $2.26 million spent or committed — $1.75m more than budgeted by this stage — of the $12m allocated in the Long-Term Plan.

In a column this week, councillor Pat Seymour said this had primarily been spent on a trial for a wetlands option that might prove to be unfeasible.

A wetlands was promoted to the council as a way to save millions compared with the cost of further treatment through a second biological trickling filter plant (the first cost close to $40m), as well as boosting biodiversity.

There was a great deal of enthusiasm for the wetlands option, and volunteers have put a lot of time into it. However, the council might be cooling on a wetlands after being told up to 30 hectares of valuable flat land would be required. If so, the $9.74m remaining in the LTP for this project will almost certainly be well short of what is needed.

At the same time the council will not be able to spend all the $8.8m allocated this financial year for the DrainWise project, which is aimed at preventing wastewater discharges into the city rivers by removing intrusions from private properties through illegal connections, or surface water getting into gully traps.

This is a project the public has strongly called for and the council, which has allocated $27m to it, is being urged to proceed faster — which would increase costs.

A major problem is that it is also going to involve expenditure from individual property owners, and the council might have to look at providing loans so homeowners can get the work done and pay it back over time. Even then it would still face considerable angst over the costs and enforcement.

In any case, the 2 percent rates target much valued by the Mayor is starting to look shaky. There is a meeting of the Future Tairawhiti committee next week. Look for these two subjects to come up.

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