Iwi says new sewerage system in North Taranaki not optional

5:51 pm on 2 April 2021

A Taranaki iwi is insisting on a new wastewater system for a north Taranaki town suffering repeated sewage spills.

A section of the Urenui River.

A section of the Urenui River. Photo: Google Maps

The new $30 million sewerage system is an option in New Plymouth District Council's Long Term Plan, currently out for consultation.

But Ngāti Mutunga told a public meeting on Wednesday night the new system is not optional, but necessary and overdue.

Urenui, a small town about 30km north-east of New Plymouth, currently relies on septic tanks.

For many years it has suffered leaks into the stormwater system during heavy rainfall.

For two years the district council has warned against collecting shellfish and using the popular Urenui River mudflats after testing detected high levels of E coli bacteria.

This summer Ngāti Mutunga escalated those warnings with a rāhui on swimming, fishing and shellfish collecting in the river and estuary.

Ngāti Mutunga rūnanga kaitiaki Rodney Baker said replacing the current system was essential.

"When will it be fixed? When will the sewerage be fixed?"

NPDC infrastructure manager David Langford said Urenui was a top priority.

"The budget starts at the beginning of the 10-year plan, but it will take five years to build."

Langford said rather than being pumped to New Plymouth, the waste would go to a new treatment plant to be built locally.

The system would cover Urenui and the nearby settlement of Onaero and their two coastal campgrounds.

Ngāti Mutunga's environment officer Marlene Benson said the timeframe was too long.

"You need to know that you're asking the people to put up with sewerage running into our local river and to the sea at Urenui and Onaero for five more years."

John McLean of the North Taranaki Awa Protection Society backed Ngāti Mutunga, saying the sewage build was essential.

"This sort of thing is not optional. This is your job and you've got to do it."

New Plymouth district councillor Dinnie Moeahu told the meeting people needed to make submissions to prove the importance of the proposed scheme.

"If you like it, say so. You've got to rally the community."

Rodney Baker said Ngāti Mutunga would open its office in Urenui on Sunday at 10am to help locals prepare submissions to the long term plan.

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