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Sustainability and government standards

Sustainability is a key factor in this project.

Our city’s population is growing and the value being placed on our environment is high. Through this project we are also exploring ways to reduce our wastewater before it goes into the wastewater network for treatment.

These will form part of all options as they are developed and refined. We are also looking at new ways to manage, move, and treat our wastewater.

We’ve taken some steps already – for example, Council’s recent Pressure Sewer Policy will require pressure sewer systems to be used in areas that would be difficult to service with a conventional gravity sewer system, to minimise the risk and level of stormwater entry to the wastewater system.

In addition to Nature Calls, Council is also implementing a range of other waste minimisation programmes and education initiatives about ways to reduce wastewater flow and contamination loads in the wastewater discharges produced by the city.

All options would meet environmental and public health standards

We’re confident that all of the options we’re proposing would protect public health.

We’ll also ensure that any treatment method and discharge meets environmental regulations.

We’re working with some of the best environmental scientists and engineers to inform us how best to achieve these targets. These targets include eco-system impact, water quality, and organisms that live in water or on land.

The impact of legislative changes

When Nature Calls began in 2017 the legislation and policy framework was different from what we are facing now. Major decisions have been made at government level that have the potential to impact significantly on the delivery of Nature Calls. Currently we are working ahead of these major changes being implemented, however we are required to consider them as we progress to lodging the Resource Consent and Assessment of Environmental Effects.

The following paragraphs outline the relevant legislative changes and the impact they will have on this project.

Three Waters

In mid-2017, government commenced a review of how to improve the regulation and supply arrangements for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater (three waters). Our Council has been working with Government throughout this process. BY 2025, it is likely the Council will no longer be responsible for the delivery of the three waters. However Council is still required to continue with the Nature Calls project until these changes are implemented. National updates on the Three Waters Bill are available at dia.govt.nz.

Freshwater Policy

A new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management came into effect on 3 September 2020. The policy statement will require Council to give greater consideration to improving water quality and giving effect to Te Mana o te Wai. The policy statement must be implemented through the One Plan by 2024.

Te Mana o te Wai is a concept that refers to the fundamental importance of water and recognises that protecting the health of freshwater protects the health and wellbeing of the wider environment, and protects the mauri of the wai (water). Te Mana o te Wai is about restoring and preserving the balance between the water, the wider environment, and the community.

Highly relevant to Nature Calls is the requirement for Councils to manage periphyton (growth attached to underwater surfaces) in rivers as a compulsory attribute, to achieve ecosystem health. Managing periphyton growth is a requirement of our current consent and is included in the rules of the One Plan. The policy statement will introduce more stringent regulations and criteria than currently in place in the One Plan.

One Plan

Under the Resource Management Act, Horizons Regional Council has established “The One Plan” to give effect to the requirements of the RMA in its region. The One Plan is the planning regulatory document Nature Calls will be assessed under.

All of our options will require a resource consent under One Plan. This resource consent assesses the activity against the relevant objectives, policies and rules for discharging treated wastewater to either land, ocean or surface water specified in the One Plan.

When assessing options under the One Plan we will have to show how the option meets or improves on the criteria set in the One Plan.

Resource Management Act

Following a comprehensive review of the resource management system, which was released last year, the government confirmed the RMA would be replaced with three new Acts:

  • Natural and Built Environment Act
  • Strategic Planning Act
  • Climate Change Adaptation Act.

It is intended that all three pieces of legislation are passed by the end of 2022.

As our application for Nature Calls will be lodged before the new legislation is in place, the resource consent will be assessed under the existing RMA.

A consent could be in place for up to 35 years.