21 Nov 2023

Raglan wastewater treatment plant on borrowed time

10:04 am on 21 November 2023
Surfing at Raglan Beach, Waikato.

Surfers enjoy the waves at Raglan Beach. Photo: Paul Abbitt / 100% Pure NZ

The beach-side community of Raglan, in Waikato, needs a new plan for its treated sewage.

The current treatment plant has been operating under an expired consent for the last three years and in October it breached consent conditions twice by discharging treated sewage into the incoming tide.

The Waikato District Council will soon have more clarity on when a new plant will be built, but what will happen to the treated water is still a vexed question.

The lease for Raglan's wastewater treatment plant expired three years ago.

The lease for Raglan's wastewater treatment plant expired three years ago. Photo: Waikato District Council / Supplied

Raglan community board chair Dennis Amoore said Waikato District Council and Watercare - who manage the plant - know what the community wants.

"It's been made very clear that we would prefer to see a land-based disposal system going forward - but that does come at a price. Those sorts of things are yet to be finalised."

Waikato District Council's water manager Keith Martin said they had heard the community's preference "loud and clear".

"The council is getting going with funding and building a new plant while still working out what to do with the sewage once it is treated."

Martin said that continuing to operate the treatment plant without a consent was not ideal, but it was the situation the council found itself in.

"The reason for that is ... the time it takes to get through the consenting process, and in our case, the community was really clear it wanted change."

Currently, the treated sewage was discharged into the sea twice a day on the outgoing tide.

The other option was to put it on land to be absorbed, which was complex - and expensive, he said.

"What you're asking the land to do is ... the final polishing of the treated effluent. And the soil has to be capable of doing that," said Martin.

Richard Hart, owner of Harty's Fishing and Hardware in Raglan, has lived in the town most of his life and has always known that treated sewage goes into the harbour.

He was concerned, however, when wastewater went into the harbour when it shouldn't, as happened twice last month.

"Especially as we approach summer and we want to encourage people to swim and fish in the harbour, and enjoy the water - we don't want to know there's been an accidental discharge on the incoming tide."

Hart said he was worried about the cost of fixing the sewage problem.

"Our rates are extremely high. Most towns will say that, but Raglan's rates are very, very, very high."

Waikato District Council mayor Jacqui Church.

Waikato District Council mayor Jacqui Church. Photo: Waikato District Council / Supplied

Waikato District mayor Jacqui Church said councils were always trying to balance the need for infrastructure with the affordability of infrastructure - particularly when it comes to water.

"Our council has been on that journey for a long time to make sure we do the best we can to support our communities and our healthy waters."

Funding for the new plant had been approved and construction was in the final stages of tendering.

Meanwhile, a Waikato Regional Council spokesperson said it was gathering information about the wastewater breaches last month and their environment effects. The council anticipated the investigation would be completed by early next year.

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