The group formed in opposition to the green-lit Te Anau wastewater scheme at Manapouri has lodged an appeal of the consent decision with the Environment Court.
Fiordland Sewerage Options chairman Alistair Paton-McDonald said three appeals were lodged including two from individuals, and if it came down to a legal battle with the Southland District Council, the group was confident the scheme would be defeated.
“Our legal and engineering specialists’ advice is that the consented discharge of wastewater to the Manapouri site, with the 29 conditions imposed, would not survive a rigorous challenge in the Environment Court, and we believe that the options put forward by our consultant must be looked at by SDC.”
Having employed its own consultant Peter Riddell, the group was investigating alternative schemes for the council at its own cost, and now recommended discharge to land that stayed entirely underground instead of using irrigators, Mr Paton-McDonald said.
“On Friday last, Fiordland Sewerage Options executive members and our Auckland consultant Peter Riddell met with [Te Anau Community Board deputy chairwoman] Rachel Cockburn and [Mararoa-Waimea ward councillor] Ebel Kremer, and presented our ‘further options for retreatment of the sewerage at Te Anau and its discharge to land closer to the existing ponds’.”
The same proposal was presented to Southland District Mayor Gary Tong, and was met with enthusiasm and the promise that it would be tabled before the council, Mr Paton-McDonald said.
“The next procedure is mediation, which is basically a change of various things to satisfy both parties,” he said. “In the interim we wish to hold back from continuing the appeal process with the Environment Court until SDC have evaluated more fully our environmentally and cost effective option.”
“It is not our wish to force the issue via the Environment Court, however we had no choice but to appeal the decision due to the timeframes imposed by the Resource Management Act.”
But while alternatives resulting from its own consultation were being presented to the council as part of mediation, they would comprise a key part of the case before the court, Mr Paton-McDonald said.
“We’re in an awkward situation,” he said.
“We’re hoping the council will look very closely at what we’re doing.”
FSO hoped for continued support from its 730-strong membership, and would appreciate community support as the situation developed, Mr Paton-McDonald said.
“While Manapouri might not be on your back doorstep, the environment is,” he said.
“Southland people are going to be paying for this.”
Southland District mayor Gary Tong said the Environment court appeal meant that the current scheme had been essentially halted for the moment, to allow for mediation.
“It has put a stopper in it, for want of a better term, for the moment,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go.”
“The group itself has done some amazing work,” he said.
A workshop with himself, members of FSO and SDC chief executive Steve Ruru would be taking place on Monday next week, Mr Tong said.