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Discharge granted

Two major consents for the proposed Te Anau wastewater scheme at Manapouri have been granted for 25 years by an independent commission.

After two public evidentiary hearings last year, three commissioners approved the Southland District Council consent applications to discharge Te Anau’s treated wastewater to land and air at the Kepler Block, adjacent to Te Anau Airport Manapouri.

Twenty-nine conditions are attached to the hearing decision and required for the consent, from technical details and on-site monitoring requirements to the establishment of a community liaison group.

Fiordland Sewage Options chairman Alistair Paton-McDonald said the organisation was in the process of analysing the hearing decision and planning its next steps.

“We’re definitely appealing the decision,” he said. “There are so many factors, and when you look at the decision of the commissioners, they have some serious concerns themselves.”

Members of FSO have stated previously that they would be prepared to go to the Environment Court if the consents got the tick.

The commissioners’ report states that while SDC might think it adequate to pass on information to the community through Environment Southland reports alone, a more direct and ongoing transfer of information will be the best way to proceed.

“We consider the advantage of a group containing representatives of a range of stakeholders is that it enables discussion and allows a consent holder to properly explain its operations, rather than leaving it to people to interpret a bald set of figures,” the report states.

The commissioners rejected aspects of the application that would have allowed odour to affect surrounding land including the State Highway, and required that no observable spray drift or odours should be present at the airport or to the wider community.

“We are of the view any odour arising from the operation of the discharge should not be noxious, offensive or objectionable beyond the North Block.”

All sprinklers on the site are required to produce a droplet size exceeding a diameter of 1700 microns. This is a large droplet by any scientific standard, is classified as ‘Ultra Coarse’ and considered less likely to drift large distances in the wind.

A total of six wells on the site will have to be monitored quarterly for nitrogen and phosphorous levels, as well as for any potential changes to groundwater direction.

The consent will also require 10,000 cubic metres of storage for wastewater in the event of emergencies or prolonged periods of rain, requiring upgrades to infrastructure either on-site or at the Te Anau oxidation ponds.

“We accept that the ponds could be configured so that the water level in all three ponds is lowered at once by pumping from Pond 3 only. This may require the lowering of the connecting pipes/weirs between ponds,” the report states.

The proposed use of land at the Kepler Block originally included discharge of wastewater from both the Te Anau and Manapouri oxidation ponds, and this provision was rejected by the commissioners.

“We were told that the applicant intends directing the treated wastewater from the Manapouri system to this site when the Manapouri discharge consent expires in 2024,” the report states. “In essence, the applicant is asking us to grant consent to the discharge of the Manapouri effluent without making an application.”

Read the full report on the Environment Southland website by visiting www.bit.ly/1zRPNtq

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said a lot of work had been put in to get the proposal to its current stage, and the commissioners had “left no stone unturned”.

But there was an understandable anger in the community, and this was by no means the end of the scheme process, Mr Tong said.

“People are quite grumpy about it,” he said. “But people are forgetting that this is only the discharge to land and air, and nothing to do with consent for a pipeline, for buildings, for pumps, for anything.”

He and SDC chief executive Steve Ruru would be meeting with Fiordland Sewage options and members of the Te Anau Community Board and Manapouri Community Development Area subcommittee on Friday, Mr Tong said.

“Just to go over the points that have been raised by the commissioners, and obviously to discuss what they intend doing and what we intend doing.”

“It’s an early opportunity to have a yarn,” he said. “We’ve got to regroup.”

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