Wastewater consent application on hold

EDITORIAL

Gisborne District Council is acknowledging “significant legal and reputational risk” in relation to the wastewater treatment option it included in its 2018-2028 Long-Term Plan (LTP) — which involves a $24.3 million upgrade, but to be more affordable maintains disposal through the marine outfall “until a viable alternative for use and disposal can be identified”.

This choice is not compliant with the council’s wastewater consent, so a variation is required.

A recent update for councillors said the selected option was being considered by a Consent Review Group (CRG), and tangata whenua, the Medical Officer of Health and expert advisers on the CRG “currently strongly oppose a variation to the discharge consent”.

“They expect the council to deliver on the consent and associated time frames that were agreed to with them in the past and stipulated in the consent, and not doing so is unacceptable.”

The Wastewater Management Committee, made up of four councillors and four tangata whenua representatives, had endorsed the concerns of the CRG.

The update said the significant consent risks and stakeholder concerns had put this major project behind schedule, with the capital budget of $300,000 for the 2018/19 year significantly underspent because the scope of consenting had changed due to discussions with the CRG.

“A consent will no longer be lodged at this stage, and will depend on further consultation and direction from councillors.”

The budget for the year would, however, still be spent, as the focus would now be on engineering design, site investigations and planning matters that were required regardless of consent processes.

Another risk noted was escalation of construction costs, to which the council said: “The project team has a very strong focus on delivery of the most cost-effective upgrade solution. The aim is to save costs wherever possible to reduce this risk. Furthermore, external experts have been contracted to investigate key aspects of the upgrade proposal (eg solids disposal) with the intention of finding innovative means to reduce costs.”

Gisborne District Council is acknowledging “significant legal and reputational risk” in relation to the wastewater treatment option it included in its 2018-2028 Long-Term Plan (LTP) — which involves a $24.3 million upgrade, but to be more affordable maintains disposal through the marine outfall “until a viable alternative for use and disposal can be identified”.

This choice is not compliant with the council’s wastewater consent, so a variation is required.

A recent update for councillors said the selected option was being considered by a Consent Review Group (CRG), and tangata whenua, the Medical Officer of Health and expert advisers on the CRG “currently strongly oppose a variation to the discharge consent”.

“They expect the council to deliver on the consent and associated time frames that were agreed to with them in the past and stipulated in the consent, and not doing so is unacceptable.”

The Wastewater Management Committee, made up of four councillors and four tangata whenua representatives, had endorsed the concerns of the CRG.

The update said the significant consent risks and stakeholder concerns had put this major project behind schedule, with the capital budget of $300,000 for the 2018/19 year significantly underspent because the scope of consenting had changed due to discussions with the CRG.

“A consent will no longer be lodged at this stage, and will depend on further consultation and direction from councillors.”

The budget for the year would, however, still be spent, as the focus would now be on engineering design, site investigations and planning matters that were required regardless of consent processes.

Another risk noted was escalation of construction costs, to which the council said: “The project team has a very strong focus on delivery of the most cost-effective upgrade solution. The aim is to save costs wherever possible to reduce this risk. Furthermore, external experts have been contracted to investigate key aspects of the upgrade proposal (eg solids disposal) with the intention of finding innovative means to reduce costs.”

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