News & Events

Nature Calls open for feedback

Wednesday April 14 2021

Palmerston North residents, and those in surrounding districts, are being asked to have their say on how we manage, treat and discharge our wastewater for up to the next 35 years.

Photo shows wastewater education campaign graphic with Nature Calls logo.

Our resource consent for how we currently do this is ending soon, and we need to apply for a new consent by June 2022.

A second period for feedback on Nature Calls is now open, and will assist Council with choosing a Best Practicable Option in the coming months.

A range of options to consider

Since the feedback in 2020, we’ve moved from a conceptual level to a more detailed understanding of options. This work has included investigations to explore proposed treatment, modelling the effects of a discharge on the receiving environment, the nature of a land passage or wetland, the impact of residential and trade waste growth under a number of scenarios, along with exploring the potential for a regional scheme. These desktop exercises have also allowed us to determine which options will meet legislative and environmental standards under the Resource Management Act and One Plan.

We’ve also worked with stakeholders and completed a multi-criteria process to try to identify if any of the options are to be preferred. Based on the work completed to date we have identified three options which appear to score well across the range of criteria, however all options remain under consideration. The three options include:

Discharge Option 1: Majority of treated wastewater is discharged to the Manawatū River via a wetland or land passage, with significantly improved removal of contaminants (including phosphorus and nitrogen) and some land application during the summer months.

Discharge Option 2: Hybrid Discharge, with treated wastewater discharged to land 55 % of the time, and the Manawatū River 45% of the time

Discharge Option 3: Treated wastewater discharged to the ocean.

Since 2020, we’ve ruled out the Groundwater Discharge option. Discharge to groundwater requires significant land area and treatment, presenting major cost implications higher than originally estimated at a concept level. There are also environmental risks around an option of this scale, including the potential impacts on groundwater supplies.

The discharge of treated wastewater completely to land is looking less feasible due to the large land area needed and the potential effects this option could have on community, individuals and activities already occurring in the region – eg: farming. The land required is bigger than the city’s urban boundary and to acquire that level of land would be complex, and would also take away land for housing or agricultural purposes.

Values a key part of consultation

In this feedback period, we’re asking submitters to identify their values in the order of what matters most to them and how these can be met with the options presented.

Mayor Grant Smith says knowing what is most important to the community can input into the decision making process, before the decision is made by Council.

“The values being asked about include public health, Maori cultural values, financial implications, natural environment, resilience, growth and economic development, social and community considerations and technology and infrastructure. All of these values factor into the final decision making, but getting a good grasp of what matters to our community can help shape that decision.”

This project will impact rates

Residential ratepayers will be paying $299 in 2020/21 for wastewater services. The potential future cost for these options range from $330-450 more per home per year. This charge will also apply per pan (toilet) for other ratepayers.

There'd also be a significant contribution by our trade waste customers. Around 500 businesses currently pay around $1million combined per year to send their wastewater to our treatment plant. This will also increase.

Palmerston North City Mayor Grant Smith says unfortunately, this isn’t an optional project.

“The challenge for us will be to determine the most cost-effective option that strikes an appropriate balance between environmental, cultural, social and financial considerations. I can assure you that government, external and industry funding is being explored, and these conversations will continue as we get closer towards choosing the best option for our city.”

Plenty of opportunities to ask questions

Over the feedback period we’ll have a range of ways for people to have their say, and ask questions. We’ll have a series of drop in sessions where residents can come and speak to the project team, a series of public meetings in Palmerston North and Horowhenua, a live Q+A on Facebook and YouTube, and we’ll be at some markets around the city. These events will adhere to Covid-19 Alert Level regulations. Dates for these can be found at naturecalls.nz.

We also have a Social Pinpoint page where residents can discuss the values with each other.

The information document and feedback form will be available at all libraries in the city, our customer service centre, and on our website.

The feedback period ends at 5pm on Sunday 9 May.