Number of submissions on wastewater programme ‘disappointing’

Waikato District Council received just 459 submissions from 11,000 affected ratepayers regarding proposed changes to wastewater services in the Annual Plan consultation document.

Ngaruawahia residents and ratepayers sent in the most submissions, followed by residents and ratepayers in Raglan, then Tuakau, Huntly and Pokeno.

The council decided to consult ratepayers about improving its wastewater services after three sewage spills in four months in Raglan last year closed the harbour.

At the time, the Raglan community was quite vocal about wanting a no-spill policy regarding wastewater and demanded better services – something that hasn’t translated into submissions.

Raglan Community Board chairman Bob MacLeod says he’s disappointed in the low number of submissions as he thought there had been good engagement with residents about the proposed options of works to upgrade the wastewater system.

“Unless they think Bob and (Raglan Ward councillor) Lisa Thomson have got it under control, let them do it. We don’t know!

“Is it the old adage of apathy? Look at the number of people who voted us in – I only have 600 and something friends out there!”

The submission period for the proposed changes – ratepayers were asked to support one of three options for an expanded programme of works – closed on Monday last week.

The submissions ran heavily in favour of option and one and two, at nearly 45 per cent for each.

Option one, the cheaper option for ratepayers, is aimed at mitigating key overflow risks and separating wastewater operations in line with Ministry of Health best practice guidelines. Under this option, targeted wastewater rates in Raglan would rise by $112.

Option two includes the preparation of long term plans to protect waterways and environmentally sensitive areas.  This option would add $144 to the 2017-18 targeted rate in Raglan.

Mayor Allan Sanson says he is disappointed but not surprised by the number of submissions.

“We put in a huge amount of effort and energy into this,” he says, but the number is in line with what council usually gets in consultation for the Annual Plan.

Mr Sanson says the council will have to make a decision based on 459 submissions, of which a majority of 50 per cent would mean just 225 ratepayers from a total out of 11,000 connections.

“That’s what it always comes down.”

He expects come August when everyone’s targeted rates go up then everyone will “go ballistic”.

Submissions aside, Mr Sanson says Raglan was “in touch with this issue … they understand that when we get a spill it closes the harbour”.

“I’m just disappointed that we can’t get people to engage.”

The hearing of the submissions will be held on May 31.

The council is expected to make a final decision on June 28.

Inger Vos