Nature Calls is focused on determining the best practicable option for treating the city’s wastewater for up to the next 35-plus years.
Consultation ran for six weeks over June and July and included over 20 gatherings, with five public meetings, 10 drop-in sessions and a range of stakeholder meetings.
The project is the biggest financial and environmental decision our city needs to make in the coming years, with a new consent needing to be lodged by June 2022.
The results show a divided public
In total, 1,109 people and organisations had their say during consultation, which is one of the largest responses our council has had in a consultation in many years.
Option 3, which would see a 97% discharge to land was the most popular option, with 304 people choosing it as their ‘most preferred’.
Three hundred and two people selected Option 1 as their favourite, which would see a full discharge to the river with much improved phosphorous and nitrogen treatment.
When taking into account first and second choices, the first four options were all within 10 to 50 votes of each other. These four options include full river discharge (Option 1), two hybrid river discharge points and some land (Option 2), 97% to land (Option 3) and partial river and land discharge (Option 4).
Mayor Grant Smith says the results show our residents care equally about the environment but also the practical costs.
“During consultation people were concerned that by detailing potential costs for the options, the cheapest option would be by far the most popular choice. However, the most popular option from consultation is also the most expensive option, and the second preferred was the cheapest option identified. This shows that our community has a range of different values that matter to them.”
Another round of consultation to confirm the preferred option
The information provided in the June consultation was prepared in February and further assessments have helped to refine each option and confirm the likely effects on the receiving environments.
Through the later part of 2020, Council and key partners and stakeholders will be provided with assessments drawn from a range of technical reports considering technical, social, cultural and affordability issues for each of the options. Council will use this information to score each of the options for a range of criteria, using a process called multi-criteria assessment. The scores together with specific weightings will be used to develop a rank of the options and be used to assist Council to determine a preferred option or options.
We will consult again as part of confirming the preferred option. The scope of further engagement will be confirmed later in the year. But, we will be providing further more detailed information to assist the community understand the impact of different options. This will include information on current river health, the nature of the current wastewater treatment and discharge as well as the impact of the current discharge on river water quality and ecology. More detailed information on each option will also be provided based on the detailed scientific and technical assessment work being completed for the project.
All submitters will be made aware of the new information as it becomes available and the period when this will occur.
Engagement to continue
We’ll be continuing to engage with our community in Palmerston North, but also with our wider neighbours in Manawatū and Horowhenua over the coming months.
During the initial stages of this project when we were still considering all potential options for treating and discharging wastewater, our city mana whenua Rangitāne were involved. While we had some initial conversations with neighbouring iwi, following confirmation of a shortlist of options, and a better understanding of the receiving environments, we are now actively engaging with iwi with interests in the potentially affected receiving environments.
Preferred option will be selected in 2021
Council will select an option to proceed with in early 2021. Over the next year resource consent applications will be prepared and lodged with Horizons Regional Council before June 2022.
This process must continue, despite recent developments with the government’s Three Waters Reform and the consideration of an agency or regional agencies that would take control of drinking water and wastewater. As nothing has been confirmed, nor timeframes set, we need to continue to work on our resource consent applications to ensure we are meeting our legal obligations.
Quarterly progress report
The quarterly progress report for Nature Calls was delivered to Council on Wednesday 9 September 2020. You can read it on InfoCouncil.