Nature Calls update 2022

Published on 05 May 2022

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Significant work is underway as Palmerston North City Council prepares to lodge its consent for the future treatment and discharge of its wastewater for up to the next 30 years. 

In September 2021, Council confirmed that it’s future discharge would be a hybrid option, with treated wastewater being discharged to the Manawatū River 75 per cent of the time, and during the remainder of the time a combination of land and river. Council also committed to having the highest treatment in New Zealand. 

Since then, eight major pieces of work required as part of our consent application have gotten underway. These include further modelling of wastewater with various population projections for the next 50 years, monitoring the river water quality and ecology, designing the new additions for our treatment plant, determining the pipe requirements for the land discharge, working on mitigations for any impact on the river or land, finding suitable areas for land discharge

Land testing due to start

Chief Infrastructure Officer Sarah Sinclair says the option requires us to locate land where irrigation could occur, but we don’t need to have purchased the land at the time we lodge consent.

“To identify this land, we need to test soil. We will be doing that west of Palmerston North, including some properties in the Manawatū and Horowhenua Districts. We have selected some properties where we would like to test to give us a good cross section of soil types and will be contacting those landowners. We’ll also be letting people in the community know that we are testing, as we may need to test other sites as well.”

Ms Sinclair says testing land is not necessarily an indication that Council would like to purchase that land.  

“Palmerston North City Council have always said we would like land purchases to be on a willing buyer/willing seller basis, so over the coming years we’d be looking to have those conversations and carry out further testing if needed. If large properties come up for sale in Palmerston North’s west, and close to our treatment plant, then we will consider testing it, and may consider purchasing. We will be working closely with landowners over the coming weeks and months directly as we work through this process.” 

Consent application to be lodged this year.

Our wastewater consents expire in 2028. We were due to apply for new consents by June this year however over the past two years there have been significant delays to our work programme due to COVID-19 lockdowns affecting both public engagement, and the wide range of scientific and technical tests needed to prepare our consent application.  

We have advised Horizons Regional Council that it will take us until the end of 2022 to put forward our new consent application. Horizons has acknowledged the likely programme delay and is aware of the significant and complex work that Council have done to develop our best practicable option and progress the consent application. 

This wont affect our ability to design and build the new treatment or discharge requirements in time for the 2028 consent expiry.

Ms Sinclair, says although this is a difficult decision, its one we have to make.  

“We take our legal and environmental responsibilities very seriously, but the pressures placed on our technical teams by the pandemic mean we will not be able to complete important scientific analysis for the modelling of our river for the future, wetland options or land testing by June.  Protecting our environment and ensuring the best outcomes for our community have always been our top priority, and we need extra time to ensure we can do just that.” 

She says Council has informed local and regional iwi and hapu and key stakeholder groups that we would need to seek this extension, and have the support of Rangitāne in acknowledging that the delay is necessary to deliver a complete consent application.  

Stakeholders also continuing to feed into Nature Calls

We have already committed to having the best-treated wastewater in New Zealand, but our Council has also committed to constantly looking at how we can do better over the life of the consent. We’re working with our Project Reference Group and technical experts about how we can do this. The key components include how we will reduce the amount of wastewater over time, reducing the volume of treated wastewater entering the river, how we can re-use components of the wastewater and a strategy for how we will respond to any environmental uncertainty or innovative technology over the life of our consent.  

Our Project Reference Group first met in February and meets monthly to help guide Council officers and consultants about the management and treatment of our wastewater in the future, and feed in ideas for the adaptive management strategy. Having such a diverse range of groups involved means everyone gets to hear each perspective.  

More updates throughout 2022

We will continue to provide our community updates throughout the year, and a deeper look at some of the technical work we are doing.  

All information about Nature Calls is available at naturecalls.nz

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