Statement about Abatement Notice from Bay of Plenty Regional Council
Ōpōtiki District Council holds a resource consent issued by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to discharge treated wastewater from the Ōpōtiki Wastewater Treatment Plant on to land adjacent to the Waioeka Estuary.
The scheme is one of few schemes in Aotearoa to discharge to land (most discharge to waterways and the sea) and this is generally considered a more beneficial way to discharge effluent, both from a cultural and environmental perspective.
Council operates to strict consent conditions including average daily discharge amounts, storage / overflow areas, maintenance and operational requirements. (You can read more about the consent conditions and the compliance grades from the regional council on p22 of the August 2022 Risk and Assurance Committee meeting).
In December 2022, regional council issued an abatement notice. An abatement notice is a formal written notice under the Resource Management Act that requires certain actions to be taken, or to cease, within a specified time. No further enforcement actions (for example, fines or prosecution) have been taken.
The abatement notice was for significant non-compliance with consent conditions:
- The overflow weir can only be used for up to 41 days per annum at maximum discharge rate of 3600 cubic metres per day. This maximum consented limit was exceeded on 39 occasions between November 2021 and October 2022.
- The maximum daily effluent discharge rate has been exceeded on 12 occasions in the same period.
Ōpōtiki District Council recognises the importance of these abatement notices and is working very hard to fix the situation. Council also wants to reassure the public that the abatement notice is specific to overflows into the overflow pond – not discharges into the river, sea or public areas. At this stage there is no indication of environmental impact but we (regional and district council) will continue to keep a very close eye on the situation.
Very wet weather has been a significant factor in this non-compliance. The graph below illustrates how often rainfall was above the monthly average rainfall.
Council is currently working towards compliance at the wastewater treatment plant and there is an Action Plan which has been shared with regional council with immediate, short-, mid- and long-term targets.
- Reducing the volume of water entering the wastewater network has been on the council’s radar for many years and we have made significant investment to rehabilitate large portions of the network.
- Council has allocated $5M in the long-term plan as part of the ongoing rehabilitation programme set for 2025 through to 2029.
- In the short term, Council is reducing the oxidation pond levels in advance of wet weather and have plans to increase the distribution of wastewater over the existing disposal field.
- Over the coming year we will be undertaking further investigations for the oxidation pond and disposal field as we prepare to lodge a new consent application for effluent disposal (as the existing consent expires in July 2025). As part of the consent application Council will be required to consider the long-term viability of the existing oxidation pond and disposal field, assess the potential of alternative locations. The community will have input into levels of service under the new consent.