Consultation on Consent For Jones Road (Omaha) Sewage Treatment Plant Discharge

Whangateau Harbour

Whangateau Harbour

A consultation process never before used by Auckland Council and its “legacy” Councils has begun. This is modelled on similar processes used for large and environmentally challenging projects in other parts of the country.

The Jones Road plant discharge consents expire in 2015 and Watercare must apply for new consents. They have chosen to work through this new process, with expert advice, which sets up a community consultative group. This group will work with Watercare to endeavour to come to a consensus on how the consent application should be framed to satisfy all participants.

The initial “road show” held earlier by Watercare advised the community of the present situation and what might be needed in the future. It was an opportunity for locals to express their views. The meeting held at Matakana was very poorly attended and indicates that most Matakana residents have little regard for where the sewage goes once they have flushed. A better attendance at Omaha indicated a greater concern for the receiving environment.

Those who attended were invited to attend a further meeting at Point Wells for Watercare to outline the proposed consultation process. This meeting was well attended by residents from around the harbour and particularly from Omaha, Point Wells and Whangateau plus a group from Jones Road. Ngati Manuhiri was represented by Fiona Mackenzie and AC was represented by Penny Webster who made a brief speech about this new process and the Council’s interest in its outcomes.

Watercare brought staff with the necessary expertise and Phil Mitchell of Mitchell Partnerships Ltd who had extensive experience of similar processes and who spoke at length about how the new consultation would work. In essence a consultative group is set up and this will meet regularly with Watercare staff to work through the process leading to the resource consent. This gives the local people the opportunity to express their concerns and to negotiate an outcome that addresses these concerns. If successful this group can continue on to investigate further issues such as the possibility of dealing with the problem of septic tanks around the harbour.

An opportunity for questions from the meeting met with some cynicism about the actual outcomes and whether the community would be ignored when it came time to issue the consent. We were assured that every attempt would be made to find an agreeable set of conditions which would be supported by all. Failure to reach a consensus would inevitably result in expensive litigation for both parties.

Importantly for the HarbourCare members there seemed to be general agreement that the bottom line would be protection of the qualities of the harbour.

The next meeting will work out a framework for progressing including the selection of an independent chairperson and a structure to deal with the issues raised by those at the meeting. Only time will tell if this is a genuine attempt to seek the community’s approval but we are all somewhat sceptical because of past experience. We live in hope!

Comments

  1. As a resident in the Jones I would strongly recommend to review this consultation process with the local resident..unless there is alternative methods there should be no rest unless alternatives are being table,,,

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