News & Events

Awareness campaign begins for one of Council’s biggest projects

Monday February 3 2020

Palmerston North residents will soon be asked to have their say on one of the biggest financial and environmental decisions our city needs to make in the coming years.

Palmerston North City Council’s resource consent for how we currently manage, treat and discharge wastewater is ending soon, and we need to apply for a new consent by June 2022.

The Resource Management Act requires us to identify options for how we manage, treat and discharge wastewater in the future. We have shortlisted six options for public consultation. This is likely to begin in March.

We’re raising awareness of Nature Calls ahead of the consultation.

In February we are running an awareness campaign in Palmerston North about the project and our wastewater use. This includes a new section on the Council website with project information, a display in Council’s customer service centre, posters, a social media campaign, and an open day at the wastewater treatment plant.

Chief Infrastructure Officer Tom Williams says it is vital that residents and ratepayers are aware of this project due to its complexity and potential impacts on rates and the environment.

“Nature Calls is one of the largest projects Palmerston North City Council has undertaken. The outcome will impact rates, so we need to make sure everyone has a say. We’re running this awareness campaign so that come consultation, people already have some understanding of the project.”

We want residents and ratepayers to make an informed decision.

During the consultation we’ll be releasing a lot more information about the shortlist. Many of the hybrid options will give details about how much treated wastewater will be discharged at different sites, and when. We will also share what the technical requirements are to implement each option, how we will ensure they meet environmental and public health regulations, what they mean for Māori, and any social or community impacts.

Tom Williams says we will also give a cost range for each option.

“Improving our wastewater management, treatment and infrastructure won’t be cheap. The exact cost of the shortlisted options, as well as funding opportunities from Government, is being explored as part of ongoing investigations into each option. We are committed to ensuring the best practicable option is sustainable, practical and affordable.”

Background of Nature Calls

The management of water resources and discharge of wastewater is the joint responsibility of City Council and the Horizons Regional Council. The mechanism we use that allows us to discharge treated wastewater is the resource consent process under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

Our current resource consent was granted in 2003 for 30 years. However, in 2013 Horizons Regional Council became concerned about the increase in algae and sludge downstream from wastewater discharge. We don’t want to cause our awa (river) significant harm, so in 2017 we agreed to bring forward our next application for consent to 2022.

The RMA process requires an option that appropriately avoids or mitigates adverse effects on the environment and meets the purpose and principles of the RMA (Part 2). To meet these requirements, we’ll investigate, and show proof of, our analysis of possible options and potential effects on the natural, social, cultural and economic environments. It’s essential that we also engage with our community.

In late 2020, Council will choose an option to proceed with and, over the next 18 months, we’ll work on the formal resource consent application that includes preparing an Assessment of Environmental Effects. We need to lodge the resource consent application and assessment with Horizons Regional Council before June 2022.

The Horizons Regional Council will assess the application and may approve it, with consent conditions, or decline the application. The consent application will likely be publicly notified.

Once the consent is granted, we will be required to adhere to its conditions. The consent will confirm where the treated wastewater will be discharged to, how much can be discharged, what level of treatment is needed, and monitoring and reporting requirements.

The six shortlisted options are:

  • All treated wastewater is discharged to the Manawatū River, with improved removal of phosphorus and nitrogen.
  • Treated wastewater discharged to Manawatū River at Tōtara Road, and below Opiki Bridge, with some land application.
  • Treated wastewater applied to land, with discharge to the Manawatū River in exceptional circumstances
  • Treated wastewater applied to land, with some discharge to the Manawatū River
  • Treated wastewater discharged to groundwater via infiltration, with land application in the drier months of the year
  • Most of the treated wastewater discharged to the ocean, and some applied to land.


  • Early 2020: Public consultation
  • 2020: Investigation continues for all six options by technical experts
  • Late 2020: Recommended option is given to Council for final decision
  • 2021-mid 2022: Development of the resource consent application proceeds
  • Before June 2022: Submit the resource consent application to Horizons Regional Council