Te Mauri o Tarawera: Protecting the Health of Tarawera

Lake Tarawera Reticulated Sewerage Scheme

Background

In March 2008, a report to the Lake Tarawera Action Plan Working Party from the Wastewater Sector group, recommended the LTRA support the need for reticulation of wastewater at Tarawera, because ‘reticulation removes potential nutrients from the catchment and is thoroughly proven, permanent, and relatively maintenance free’.

On 17 December, 2015 the Mayor of Rotorua Lakes Council, Steve Chadwick committed to establishing the Wastewater Working Group for Tarawera with $50,000 funding and this was approved by Council in mid 2016.

In August 2016, the first meeting of the Lake Tarawera Sewerage Steering Group was held with multi-party representation including from the LTRA and the local community.

In August 2017, $6.5M was granted from the Ministry for the Environment to the Lake Tarawera Sewerage Scheme.

On 15 October, 2018 after thorough investigations of the viable options, the Lake Tarawera Sewerage Steering Group unanimously agreed to support an onsite Low Pressure Grinder Pump (LPGP) system for each property, to be connected to Lake Okareka, via Tarawera Road, then to the Wastewater Treatment Plant in Rotorua.

At a community meeting on 20 October, 2018 100 Tarawera residents and ratepayers unanimously supported the Lake Tarawera Sewerage Scheme consisting of onsite LPGP systems for each property and that the system trunk main connect to the Lake Okareka system via Tarawera Road and then to the Wastewater Treatment Plant in Rotorua.

On 26 November, 2020 Council passed a resolution agreeing to the proposed Tarawera Wastewater Reticulation as recommended by the Steering Group.

On 03 February, 2021 Council formally advised each affected Tarawera ratepayer of the decision to proceed with reticulation to Rotorua via the roading network corridor and Okareka. Once at least 75% of all affected ratepayers acknowledged receipt of the letter and returned their signed acceptance of the scheme proposal and the Council’s adopted actual net capital cost repayments terms, Council began detailed network design. Once detailed onsite design was completed, a firmer estimate of the scheme cost was determined.

On 16 April, 2021 a joint letter from Rotorua Lakes Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council stated that both Councils were committed to work towards protecting our lakes for future generals and the proposed Lake Tarawera Wastewater Reticulation scheme is a vital part of that broader commitment. They thanked more than 240 responders from the Lake Tarawera community to the 03 February, 2021 letter. The responses to date were 65% fully supporting the proposed reticulation scheme and they expressed the conviction that the proposed reticulation is the most viable and long-term sustainable option for the local community. Thirty percent of the feedback received advised support for the proposed reticulation scheme and urged Council to explore potentially more flexible funding options to mitigate the initial net capital cost burden on the local ratepayers. A small portion of the responses, 5%, stated opposition to the proposal.

On 28 June, 2021 at Rotorua Lakes Council’s meeting there was unanimous support from the Councillors for the design and planning for the Tarawera Reticulated Sewerage Scheme and work to commence in the 2021/2022 financial year. A committee was to be formed to find a viable solution for those who are unable to pay a lump sum. The committee was made up of representatives from Rotorua Lakes Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Lakes Community Board and Tarawera residents.

01 December, 2021 a joint letter from Rotorua Lakes Council and Trility stated that the first phase of the project – the design work that will include finding the best location on each property for the LPGP system, would commence. Property visits were scheduled to start at the beginning of December 2021 and would continue until early March 2022. The design of the complete Tarawera Sewerage Scheme was scheduled to be finished in early May 2022.

On 07 March, 2022 Tarawera ratepayers received a letter from Rotorua Lakes Council providing an update on the status of the project. Following community engagement in 2021, feedback indicated the majority of responding ratepayers, 95%, support wastewater reticulation at Tarawera. Two key requests were received. Certainty about the gross cost of the scheme (as opposed to the concept estimates) and consideration for more flexible repayment options for the net capital costs of the scheme for those who may not be able to pay a lump sum at the completion of the project. The Funding Working Group has met several times and has exchanged further views and considerations on the subject through direct communications. The high-level outcomes of this work have resulted in proposed modifications to the initial repayment options for the net capital costs of the scheme. The proposed modifications that will need to be presented to and approved by Council are; the option for affected ratepayers to pay the net capital contribution by either a voluntary lump sum upon completion of the scheme (targeted to be in 2024) or through a targeted rate over a period of 10 years. The longer-term repayment option, through a targeted rate, will attract a finance /administration cost and it is based on the historical evidence of previous schemes where some 50% of ratepayers opted to pay their net contribution through a lump sum payment. Council staff have modelled this option against RLC’s financial strategy and consider it to be viable. Due to the nature, and complexity of the Rating Act, Council is not able to offer a mixed model where a ratepayer can make voluntary lump sums in part and pay the balance via a targeted rate. However, it is proposed that once the targeted rate has been implemented, a ratepayer can elect to pay the balance via a lump sum, which can be done if the property is sold or their financial circumstances change. The outstanding balance would be recalculated and would normally be less than if the remaining balance were collected via the targeted rate. The possibility where a higher portion of ratepayers pay the lump sum i.e. 70% instead of 50% was considered. If such an outcome became evident, it would be possible to extend the repayment term to 10-15 years on this basis as it would create more headroom in terms of Council’s debt.

It is expected that the programme for the detailed binding cost will be finalised by 31 March, 2022. This will provide the evidence-based information for drafting the Lake Tarawera Sewerage Scheme Repayment Policy.

The intention is to report these outcomes to elected members on 12 May, 2022 via the Strategy Policy and Finance Committee for final confirmation on the 26 May Council meeting with payment terms confirmed to ratepayers thereafter. Depending on Council’s final decision, a construction contract will then be submitted for Council adoption on 30 June, 2022 with a view to starting works as soon as possible in the new financial year of 2022/23.

For further information on the Lake Tarawera Reticulated Sewerage Scheme visit the Rotorua Lakes Council’s website.

Legal Opinion from DLA Piper on role of Rotokakahi Control Board: January 2024
Letter to Mayor Tapsell and RLC Councillors: 5 December 2023

RLC Tarawera Sewerage Scheme

Update from Gerhard Mostert: Engineers' Representative

Update December 2023
Update September 2023

Annual Plan Submission by the Lake Tarawera Ratepayers' Association

LTRA Submission to RLC May 2023

Learn more about the Lake Tarawera Reticulated Sewerage Scheme by opening the PDF's below:

February 2021 - Phantom Special Edition: Reticulated Sewerage (The basics)
Reticulated Sewerage Scheme Letters
LTRA Submission to RLC re Reticulated Sewerage