Press Release: Government adopts a more coordinated and effective response to water and waste water.

On the 8 November 2016, Cabinet endorsed a proposal to establish a more effective approach to water and waste water (sanitation) planning and management. The existing project management unit (PMU) for Te Mato Vai will incorporate the management of the Wastewater Project (currently the Sanitation Upgrade Programme). 

This new approach will bring together key government agencies under one steering group enabling consistent government policy development and direction, more effective and broader community and industry consultation and access to finance for technical expertise not available within government agencies. The lessons learnt during the design and delivery of Te Mato Vai Project will strengthen this new approach. This approach is expected to provide a high degree of certainty and confidence to our communities and industry.

The environmental impacts of the growth in domestic housing and tourism development in Rarotonga and Aitutaki in our foreshore area are major concern and need to be addressed urgently. The existing water quality data and bathymetry studies will need to be enhanced to support effective decisions making as well as the consultative process with the communities and general public.

As an immediate step, a full assessment of options to determine the most cost-effective and technically viable long-term solutions for the collection, treatment and disposal of wastewater on Rarotonga and Aitutaki is required. This preparatory work will commence immediately and is expected to take up to 18 months before construction commences.

Government recognises that in the interim period before effective systems are in place that address the treatment of our waste water, decisions need to be made to mitigate the environmental impacts of substandard systems. With special reference to Muri lagoon, government will work within the law, and work with communities to develop interim solutions that minimise the environmental impacts on our lagoons.

The direction of the current onsite domestic system upgrade will be outlined in a detailed work plan under development to determine where the on-site treatment can be installed with maximum effect. A temporary pause to the on-site wastewater treatment upgrade on Rarotonga is required while this plan is being completed.

Developing an effective solution to managing our waste water and its impacts on our environment, our communities and our economy is a complex process and government looks forward to undertaking this process in a participative and consultative manner based upon sound science in the best interest of all.

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15 November 2016