Upgrade of sewage plant approved

Dunedin city councillors have backed plans for the $74.3 million stage two upgrade of Dunedin's secondary sewage treatment facilities despite fresh questions about community consultation.

Councillors at yesterday's infrastructure services committee meeting voted in favour of the preferred "option A", the installation of new secondary treatment systems at the city's Tahuna wastewater plant.

The systems, including ultraviolet (UV) light disinfection, digestion systems and drying techniques, were needed to replace the plant's chlorination disinfection method, which had to cease by September 1, 2011, existing consents stipulate.

Only Cr Teresa Stevenson - who abstained - failed to support option A, which was one of about 40 dry and liquid options considered before a shortlist was drawn up earlier this year.

The planned upgrade followed the commissioning on January 23 of the city's new $37 million, 1.1km outfall pipe leading out to sea from Lawyers Head, which has dramatically improved water quality, including at St Kilda and St Clair beaches.

Questions were asked at yesterday's committee meeting about the need for further community consultation after the cost of the preferred option rose by $7.1 million above the $67.2 million budget.

Cr Richard Walls said the additional capital cost was a "considerable increase" on what was included in existing budgets.

While Cr Walls did not believe further community consultation was needed, he wanted the question addressed by staff anyway given "some people are running round stirring what's in the pot".

His comment followed calls by some councillors and members of the public for another round of community consultation over perceived changes to the $198 million Otago Stadium project.

Council environment general manager Tony Avery said while the budget for the Tahuna upgrade had increased, the council had been clear throughout about its stage two upgrade plans.

Council water and waste services manager John Mackie said while there was no direct community consultation, key stakeholders "without exception" had supported proceeding despite increased costs.

Committee chairman Cr Andrew Noone said he was confident staff and consultants had followed the proper process in what was "the last major step in the 20-year upgrade" of the city's wastewater treatment facilities.

Cr Paul Hudson pointed out the preferred option would actually achieve an overall saving across the life of the plant as annual operating costs of $3.7 million each year for option A were $2 million lower than the $5.7 million budgeted for.

That was, councillors were told, because efficiencies, including the use of methane gas, produced during the plant's solid waste drying process, would power the plant's driers, rather than diesel.

The committee's decision would be referred to the full Dunedin City Council meeting on May 18 for a final decision.

If approved, construction was expected to begin early next year.


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