Formerly New Zealand's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands and MP for the Northland Electorate of New Zealand.


Moving forward together

Thursday 15 March 2018

Landmark moment for Kerikeri

Tuesday was a big day for the Far North District Council and for the people of Kerikeri. While most residents were drying out after Cyclone Hola, representatives from Ngati Rehia and our contractors, Broadspectrum and United Civil, joined Councillor Ann Court and I in a rain-soaked field 3km out of town.

We carried shovels and were joined by a photographer. We were there to say a few solemn words and begin construction of Kerikeri's new Wastewater Treatment plant. It was a symbolic act - the real work begins in coming days and weeks - but it was also a very significant moment.

It has taken 11 years of discussion, design and redesign to get to this point. The Kerikeri Wastewater Project began as a much more ambitious plan that came with a much more significant $42 million price tag. But things changed. The Global Financial Crisis slowed growth in the Bay of Islands and we drew important lessons from elsewhere about the affordability of large infrastructure projects.

In 2015, after running extensive consultations with the community, we decided on a scaled-back plant for Kerikeri, while also upgrading existing capacity at the Paihia sewage plant. The new Kerikeri Wastewater Treatment plant and associated reticulation work will cost half of the original plan at around $20.5 million.

Despite the lower cost, it will still triple the capacity of Kerikeri's existing and failing treatment plant. It will treat 1000 cubic metres of sewage a day - that's more than three times the current plant's capacity and much more than current peak summer loads. Will that be enough to cope with population growth?

The Ministry of Health certainly thought so when it signed-off on a $7.3 million subsidy for the project in February. We gained that approval by demonstrating the project will not only improve sewage treatment, it will also cater for Kerikeri's long-term growth.

When we do reach that 1000 cubic metre capacity, the plant can easily be expanded to treat a total of 1500 cubic metres of sewage. We think it will take eight to 10 years before that is needed. In the short-term, when construction of the plant is completed in 2019, 350 new properties will be able to decommission their septic tanks and join the 1090 existing homes and businesses connected to a modern reticulated sewerage system.

That's important for two reasons. The Ministry for the Environment estimates that 15 to 50 per cent of on-site waste disposal systems fail because of poor maintenance and unsuitable soil types. Failing septic tanks and soakage fields contaminate streams, estuaries and our beautiful harbours. Secondly, septic tanks and soakage fields take up a lot space.

Without a modern wastewater system, Kerikeri will not accommodate the growth we are now witnessing in the town. It took us a long time to get to that field on Tuesday, but I'm confident we have chosen the right solution for our largest town. And that's important for the whole district.



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