WDC’s decision on wastewater services backed by majority of Raglan submissions

The targeted rate for wastewater services will rise by $144 in Raglan this year as Waikato District Council prepares long term plans to protect waterways and environmentally sensitive areas.

Councillors last week voted to take the middle ground in improving its level of wastewater service after consultation with affected ratepayers, an option that was supported in the majority of submissions from Raglan.

A hearing on the community consultation, which presented three choices for improved wastewater services, was held in Ngaruawahia last week.

WDC has admitted it has considerable work to do to restore public confidence in its management of wastewater following three sewage spills into the Raglan Harbour in four months last year.

Council consultation with the district attracted 463 submissions from 11,000 affected ratepayers – 76 submissions were from Raglan.

Across the district, the majority of submissions (42 per cent) supported the cheapest option to mitigate key risks of wastewater overflows, while 41 per cent supported the chosen option. Eleven per cent of submissions supported a more extensive and expensive programme of works.

From the Raglan submissions, 45 per cent were in support of the chosen option, 21 per cent were in support of the cheaper option, and 18 per cent were in support of the more expensive option.

The decision will add $143.94 to the 2017-18 wastewater targeted rate for those who live in Raglan, up from $752.68 a year to $896.62.

Comments made in submissions to council highlighted concerns about increasing rates, particularly as WDC already has one of the highest target rates for wastewater services nationwide.

Raglan Ward councillor Lisa Thomson said the decision wasn’t an easy one to make “when you know it will hurt many in terms of increasing rates”.

“But we need to understand the condition of our underground infrastructure so we can plan for the future and make better decisions – ones that are based on what we know rather than what we don’t know.

“I’m looking to the future, the one where our kids and grandkids will hopefully be left with a better legacy than we have now.”

In its submission, the Raglan Community Board supported the chosen option  “in principal” because it would include CCTV inspection and an education programme across the entire district.

However, it said it wanted a full account of the existing wastewater targeted rate spend because it was one of the highest in New Zealand yet “failed to maintain the existing network”.

In his submission, Kenneth Soanes, who was an electrical engineer for 44 years and worked on wastewater projects, said council’s 2017-18 targeted rate for wastewater would make it 110 per cent higher then that of Waipa District Council and 43 per cent higher then Auckland.

Raglan resident Rodger Gallagher, who rejected all three options presented by council, said WDC needed to work smarter to “achieve the desired outcome with same or lower expenditure”. He suggested a 33 per cent pay reduction for all executive staff and the money saved to go towards improving the wastewater network.

Waikato Regional Council, which fined the district council $56,000 in 2013 for a sewage spill into the harbour, wanted a bigger investment in the district’s wastewater system, “in light of recent spills to the environment, particularly from the Raglan sewer system to Whaingaroa Harbour”.

WDC service delivery general manager Tim Harty said investigations into the network so far showed that 20 per cent of the system was in poor condition and that the life of the council’s wastewater assets was lower than average.

“The reason we need to understand our assets is so that we can manage our assets going forward in the most cost-effective way possible,” he said.

The decision made by council would allow for about 50 per cent of the network to be assessed by the time the Long Term Plan was due to be considered next year, and for the whole network to be assessed by mid-2019.

Inger Vos