Council looks at wastewater

waikato District Council logoWaikato District Council will consult with 11,000 of its ratepayers who pay for wastewater services in order to undertake a programme of works to mitigate the risk of wastewater overflows.

The proposed works could increase wastewater rates by between $47 and $254 depending on where the ratepayer lives and which works programme option is chosen following consultation. The proposed rate changes are complicated by the fact that the Council is moving from five different wastewater rates throughout the district to a single district-wide rate to be introduced in the coming year.

The decision to consult ratepayers about an expanded programme of wastewater works follows criticism of the Council last year after spills closed Raglan Harbour three times in a matter of four months.

“Last year’s spills were a major wake-up call for the Council. We commissioned an independent report and decided to offer our ratepayers options that could present a significant change to our vision for protecting our environment in the future. We’re keen to meet this issue head-on and we want to work together with our ratepayers to do so,” said Mayor Allan Sanson.

Most Waikato district ratepayers are not affected by the decision as 22,000 ratepayers are on septic tanks and are not connected to a wastewater system.

General rates are set to rise by less than 3% and other targeted rates will follow the rate of inflation.

For town-based residential ratepayers who are connected to a wastewater system the impact of the rate rise will vary considerably depending on property value, location, the wastewater works option chosen and other services offered. Council is urging ratepayers to check the impact on their individual rates with an online rates calculator on the Council’s website.

The independent report presented to the Council in December last year recommended that it should aim for a better result compared with other similar-sized councils. According to benchmarking by Waters New Zealand, Waikato District Council reports the second largest number of spills per year compared with other similar-sized councils. However it is also acknowledged that the Council reports every spill no matter what the size or location and that – with fewer than 33 connections per kilometre on average – Waikato district has one of the lowest-density networks in the country.

In the last financial year a total of 33 wastewater overflows during dry weather, and 59 wastewater overflows altogether were reported (including spills during wet weather). Most were small spills on land which were cleaned up and resolved the same day they were reported.

The Council says it needs direction from its ratepayers as to the amount of work it should undertake this coming year and whether it needs to prepare for further consultation over the level of service it should be aiming to offer in its next Long Term Plan 2018-28.

A consultation document outlining the options is expected to be delivered by 13 April to the nearly 11,000 ratepayers who are connected to a wastewater service, or who pay an availability charge for being able to connect to a wastewater service because it is less than 30 metres from their property.

In the consultation document the Council reports that blockages have caused more than 80% of the wastewater overflows in the district in past three years (2014-16). So all the options for consultation include a public education programme designed to reduce overflows by improving understanding, and changing behaviour about what can and cannot be flushed down the toilet or poured down the kitchen sink.

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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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