Iwi in Rotorua have brokered an agreement for a new plan for the discharge of treated waste water, wai tātari, in the city.
The agreement between the Rotorua Lakes Council, CNI Iwi Holdings and Te Arawa Lakes Trust comes after public opposition to a proposal to discharge treated waste water into Lake Rotorua.
The agreement, Kawenata - Puarenga Catchment of Te Rotoruanui-a-Kahumatamomoe, follows extensive discussion and careful consideration by the parties to find the right outcome for mana whenua and the wider Rotorua community.
It allows for discharge onto an 40-hectare area of land within Whakarewarewa Forest as a temporary measure while working on a long-term solution which will include upgrading the council's wastewater treatment plant.
Te Arawa Lakes Trust chair Sir Toby Curtis said it was the right solution for iwi, the environment and the community.
"At this stage we are all saying this is only one pathway for us and that is to return the water or divert the water to a forest which everyone is in full agreement on."
"Everybody was of one mind that it was the best thing to do."
Sir Toby said no one could be sure what future damage treated water could have on the lake in years to come.
"No one was prepared to say outright that sending the water back into the lake would not have dire consequences later."
Sir Toby said iwi had a close and enduring relationship with the Rotorua lakes which would be important for the next generation in years to come.
Mayor of Rotorua Steve Chadwick said the kawenata is Te Arawa-led in the best interests of the community, to enable work to continue on the best possible long-term solution.
"It is a hugely significant development and I thank the parties for their willingness to come together to enable us to get to this point. The ability to work through these challenges together to get a good result is testament to the strength of partnerships."
"A lot of constructive work followed agreement to get out of the forest but we knew the discharge proposal was unacceptable to many, despite our best efforts, and council committed to still keep looking for alternatives," she said.
"This is essential infrastructure needed for quality of life, and the challenge remains with us all to achieve the best possible long-term solution for our community and our environment."