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In an earlier post I considered how Mangawhai Central Limited (MCL) has been obliged to find its own water supply to service Mangawhai Central, and the problems relating to the two new water takes consented by the NRC.

Now I consider the issue of wastewater and whether there will be enough capacity in the MCWWS for the Mangawhai Central proposal.

During the PC78 process the KDC and its expert consultants were adamant that the MCWWS has the capacity, at present, to meet the demands of the Mangawhai Central development, as well as the demand arising from the recent increase in other development in the township. 

These assurances of capacity were seized on by the MCL experts without any investigation of their own.  The hearing commissioners were assured by experts from MCL and the KDC that the MCWWS has capacity, at present, for the proposed development.

However, submitters from the community established beyond any doubt that such a proposition was not supportable by the facts. 

As a result the commissioners sought from the KDC further information on the capacity of the MCWWS and its plans to increase capacity. 

The response from the KDC, through James Sephton General Manager Structural Services, was incredibly vague and contradictory.  It states:

3.8 There is currently planned capacity available for the Mangawhai Estuary Estates and if approved, PC78.

That is not true.  There is no actual capacity available at present for either development (500 or 1,000 plus connections).  There is no planned capacity because there has been no planning to increase capacity.

The response refused to supply the planning proposals in the draft 2021/2031 LTP because, Mr Sephton argued, the plan had not been adopted and the provisions could change.  Its main message was that a major upgrade would be required circa 2026-2029.  Over the ten years of the new LTP it was likely that the capacity of the scheme would be increased to 5,000 connections.

Roadmap to future capacity
The reality is that are no plans in the new LTP for increasing capacity to meet future demands.  Rather the LTP includes what it calls a "roadmap" which will look at options for future capacity upgrades, and make recommendations.  And:

It is anticipated that these recommendations will be accommodated in the 2024/2034 version of the Long Term Plan.

At the council meeting of 3 March 2021 a detailed version of this roadmap was presented to the elected members.

This shows the proposed planning process over the next few years including decision-making in respect of capacity options, recommendations, community engagement, resource consents and hearings in the next few years.  The construction of upgrades to the plant and a new “disposal route” will be available for 2028. 

The draft 2021/2031 LTP has now been adopted, so the plans, if you can call them that, for the MCWWS are now available. 

The Consultation Document which is part of the LTP highlights the “roadmap” and on page 9 confirms the timeline provided to the elected members.

In the 2021/2022 year the roadmap will entail, in KDC-speak: “catchment study to inform on reticulation strategy and renewal, water reuse optioneering (Golf course, farms, gardens etc), and community engagement”. 

In the years 2021 to 2028 the roadmap will entail: “Upgrade network • Increased treatment capacity • Increased disposal system”, so that the “capacity improvements required for the MCWWS” are completed by 2028.  That is the date that KDC anticipates that extra capacity will be absolutely essential.

In short, the KDC has no plans for increasing the capacity of the MCWWS.  All it has is a very vague roadmap of the options that it might consider over the next few years.  It is a road map to nowhere.

A road map to nowhere


The brutal facts
The brutal truth is that the MCWWS has capacity issues at present in respect of both the treatment plant and the disposal field at Browns Road.  This has been made clear over the last few years.

An Opus report of 22 December 2016 stated that the treatment plant and disposal field were reported to be close to its design capacity with only 162 connections available.

The KDC Advisory Panel report Strategy and Options of August 2017 recommended the upgrade and extension of the current disposal system, a new disposal system and the augmentation of the treatement plant.

An Opus report of September 2018 made a list of twelve issues that the needed attention  A subsequent Opus report of December 2018 set out the proposed solutions for the issues with the treatment plant that had been identified.  However, in May 2019 the KDC decided to advance only certain items, with the remaining upgrade items being put on hold.

In the last couple of years the irrigation field in Browns Road has been extended to eke out capacity, but that has now reached capacity coverage.

A report to Council of 4 December 2019 by Mr Sephton stated that WSP had been engaged “to provide a complete picture of the entire system”.  The report warned “that the growth experienced to date will require earlier intervention than was anticipated”.  The report referred to the “network being under pressure” and “some pump stations and rising mains need upsizing”.  “The treatment facility is nearing its capacity to manage peak flows”.  In respect of Browns Road, “we are now at 100% coverage of land that can be discharged to.”

The Opus report of November 2019, kept secret, by the KDC but disclosed by submitters at the PC78 hearing, painted a grim picture of the capacity of the MCWWS, with a pressing need to find a new disposal option.

Proposals to meet current capacity issues
So how does the KDC intend to meet the current lack of capacity?

At the Council meeting of 25 November 2021 a resolution of 23 May 2018 to investigate future disposal options was given the status of “in progress”.  A report presented to the elected members made a surprise statement:

Council has approved the development of the retention/CASS tank (blance tank).  This will be taken as part of the Do Minimum assumption for disposal options.  (Underlining added)

It appears that pending the major upgrade to the treatment plant and disposal system to be planned through the roadmap, the KDC has adopted a Do Minimum, ad hoc approach, extracting efficiencies from the present set-up and only doing upgrades such as the balance tank if they prove necessary. 

Balance tank
The LTP Consultation Document at page 9 makes the balance tank (or balancing tank) the top priority. 

For several years the plant has not been able to cope with the inflow of sewage at peak holiday times and during storms.  There are overflows of sewage at various pumping stations, especially the one in Jack Boyd Drive.  Hence the offensive smell in that area reported by residents.

During storms, stormwater leaks into the wastewater pipes.  It increases the flow from a normal 600m3 to a massive 5,000m3.  An 8-fold increase.

The leakage of stormwater arises because of the poor condition of the reticulation pipes.  A KDC report of 9 September 2020 states that they have not been surveyed since they were installed in the early 2000s, and that “49 km of pipeline is scheduled to be surveyed in Mangawhai”.

The balance tank is a temporary measure to detain excessive flow in a large storage tank at peak times so that it can be pumped into the treatment plant when the flow rate is lower.  Apparently it will increase the inflows by 42% and increase the storage capacity of the treatment plant by 33%.

It is anticipated that the balance tank will not be needed once options for upgrading the plant, piping and pumps are finally decided and undertaken under the roadmap.  It is suggested that the tank can then be re-used as a reactor tank in the upgraded plant.

The cost of the balance tank was $2.1 million but that was increased to $2,869,000 in a proposal presented to the council briefing of 3 March 2021.  The increase is for upgrades to future proof the tank and for safety reasons.  The elected members have so far only approved the lower figure.

the tank will be installed this year. 

Hopefully, the balance tank will be a temporary solution to the overflows occurring because of the lack of capacity in the treatment plant.  But what happens at the other end, so to speak, with the disposal of the treated waste?

Under the ‘”do minimum” strategy the KDC is looking for efficiencies and alternative methods of disposal.  It is planning to replace the filters in the treatment plant so that a higher grade of discharge is produced, opening up more stop-gap discharge options. 

However, under the road map, a permanent disposal solution has to be decided on and constructed in the next few years when the disposal capacity is used up.

The 2019 WSP report estimated the costs of disposal options as follows:

New diposal field: $38million

Sea outfall:  $47 million

Estuary:  $26 million:

Golf course option
In the last few weeks, since the PC78 hearing on 3 February 2021, the option of disposing to the golf course has been raised again. 

The options for disposal were considered in a Harrison Grierson report of September 2014, including the golf course.  A  BMT WBM report of June 2015 and a subsequent Harrison Grierson report in 2015 considered the golf course option.  The latter report estimated the cost of discharge to the golf course to be $11.608 million.

It now seems that the golf course option has a new set of legs. 

A committee consisting of members from the KDC, the golf club and the community has been formed to look into the feasibility of the proposal.

The last minute proposal has been sneaked into the Consultation Document for the draft 2021/2031 LTP on page 10.  It suggests, wrongly, that this golf course proposal is already set in concrete:

The Council is currently planning an irrigation system for the adjacent golf course and $1.5m has been allowed for in year 1 of the LTP 2021-2031 for construction.  With our current water quality this can be used to irrigate at night.  Improving the quality to Grade A will allow for further irrigation uses and increase the amount that can be reused for the benefit of the community

In fact, a committee is "looking into" the proposal.  Discharge would be to the wetlands, green fields and the bush area.  Certainly it is an attractive option if it is feasible and acceptable to the golf club.  The golf course is adjacent to the treatment plant in Thelma Road which would save immeasurably on costs. 

However, the proposal has to be invesitgated in detail.  Take a look at the figures mentioned above.  Construction of the disposal field will be completed in 2021/2022 at a cost of $1.5 million.  Compare that to the Harrison Grierson estimate of $11.068 million in 2015.

One of the issues raised in earlier reports is that because the dishcharge would be to sand on the golf course, the discharge would quickly leach into the harnbour.  It would therefore be necessary to upgrade the quality of the discharge by replacing the mesh filters

For a project that is only a few weeks old, with a history of being rejected, with no detailed consideration or planning, it includes some huge assumptions.

Browns Road farm
There are also other costs.  Even if the golf course option is feasible:

We will still need to dispose of water in storm events and funding has been set aside to increase the size of the pipe from the plant to the reservoir at Browns Road.

This is a completely new left-field suggestion with few details.  The cost is dismissed with “funding has been set aside” but without stating what the cost is or identifying exactly where the funding has been set aside.

The Browns Road farm is 14 kilometres from the plant.  That is a massive and costly length of pipework, along with higher grade pumps etc.

It the pipe is increased in volume then it means that the holding reservoir/lake on the farm would have to be expanded to cope with the extra inflow.  However, the discharge to the land from the reservoir is already at capacity and the reservoir would become a stagnant lake with nowhere for the effluent to go.   

In short, the newly adopted golf course option appears to be a last- hope, temporary holding measure until an alternative disposal option is planned, consented and constructed acording to the roadmap. 

The current capacity figures of the MCWWS provided by the KDC are both conflicting and alarming.

The Consultation Document on page 8 contains capacity figures for the MCWWS which conflict with earlier figures.  For instance:

There are currently 2,411 connections and existing capacity of the treatment system is circa 2,800.

Those figures tie in with the statement of Jim Sephton, General Manager Infrastructure Services, in his report to the commissioners that there were 389 connections left in December 2020.  However, the KDC advised in June 2020 in response to a LGOIMA request that there was atn that time a total of  2,230 connections..  If that earlier figure was correct it would mean that there was an increase in connections of 181 in 6 months.

Assumed growth
The figures for assumed growth in the next few years are a greater reason for concern

The Consultation Document has this to say on page 8:

Over the time of the last Long-Term Plan (2018-2028) we have seen 77 connections a year.  We have investigated future options for between 70 and 100 new connections, which allows us to prepare for lower or faster rates of growth.

That figure of 77 connections a year is highly suspect.  In fact the 2018/2028 LTP anticipated an increase of 108 connections per year.  It is hard to believe that only 77 connections were made in the last 12 months given the increase in building activity.

It gets worse.  Even more questionable is the anticipated number of connections for the term of the new LTP:

Over the next ten years we have assumed 84 connections will be made each year, combining to an additional 840 connections.

In short, there are 389 connections available at present, and it is anticipated that in future there will be a demand for 84 connections a year, with a total of 840 over the ten years of the new LTP

Long shadow of Mangawhai Central
How can that figure be correct when Mangawhai is facing its biggest boom ever and Mangawhai Central is about to release a demand for at least 500 connections (as Estuary Estates) and perhaps over 1,000 connections?

If you have an doubts about the intentions of Mangawhai Central, take a close look at the extent (and the cost) of the site works.  Does anyone really believe that Mangawhai Central wil be happy with 84 connections a year, and 840 over ten years, to be shated with other developers?

In his final summing up at the PC 78 hearing, legal counsel for MCL stated:

The supermarket (approved by resource consents) is expected to connect to the wastewater network in 2021, and then residential lots are expected to begin connecting in 2022.  This is in line with planned funding and upgrades.

Forget about the “planned funding and upgrades”.  They are pie in the sky fantasies.  There are only 389 connections left.  It means that within 4 years or so there will be a “full’ sign on the MCWWS.  And that is at the assumed 84 connections a year.  Once Mangwhai Central is unleashed, capacity will be reached in much shorter space of time.

KDC’s plans for dealing with the demand
So what if demand proves to be greater than 84 connections a year?  How will the KDC suddenly provide enough capacity in the MCWWS? what are its contingency plans?  This is where we get into the airy-fairy stuff.

The KDC is “planning” – if that is the appropriate word - a staged increase in capacity to match the demand for growth.  This is how the “strategy” is spelt out in the consultation document:

We monitor the rate of take up (i.e. resource consents) allowing us to keep ahead of our planned connection numbers, ensuring our planned capital expenditure meets the needs as it arrives, if not before.

We can be flexible on these plans, should there be a large jump, or a greater than planned for demand occurs in Mangawhai.  As growth occurs and Council determines it needs more capacity, the cost of infrastructure has been planned for, and will occur just ahead of its requirement.

With respect, these are weasel words that are intended to mislead and have no basis in fact.  The demand has already occurred with the upsurge in development and with Mangawhai Central about to beat on the MCWWS door.  But there is no actual planning to increase capacity.  Planning has been deferred yet again with only a “roadmap” to discuss options for the future. 

To suggest that KDC can respond immediately to ansurge in demand is absolute nonsense.  Note that the WSP report recommended that 6 years be allowed for a substantial upgrade for “optioneering”, planning, community consultation, consenting and building. It is simply impossible for the KDC to respond immediately to an upsurge in demand.

It is difficult to comprehend the mind-set of the KDC staff.  They have made assertions about the capacity of the MCWWS and its ability to accommodate the huge demand from Mangawhai Central that are blatantly incorrect.  Now, with the prospect of Mangawhai Central being given the green light, the KDC has reversed its position.  It has now adopted assumptions that there will only be a demand for 84 connections a year for the next 10 year.  Mangawhai Central is completrely ignored and not considered.

The Consultation Document sets out the costs of the roadmap on page 10:

The LTP 2021-2031 includes $300,000 to design the expansion to the overall system in financial year 2021/2022.  This design work will allow for a number of solutions to manage growth in the coming years, and can be staged to meet the demands on the network.

And what of the cost of these unknown solutions?  The consultation document has this to say:

Construction (of the unknown solutions) will commence in financial year 2024/2025 with a total of $10 million budgeted to be spent between 2025 and 2031.

More details are provided for the funding for these yet-to-be-decided solutions:

Expanding the MCWWS will be primarily funded through development contributions, not rates;

  • $20.4 million (inflated costs) is included in the current financial forecasts for 2021-2031 for growth (just for the treatment plant)

  • Development contributions are set at $24,766 per property (excluding GST)

  • Based on an extra 840 connections over 10 year.

If you do the calculation you will see that the development contributions meet the allocated costs over 10 years

However, there are a few issues with these statements:

  • The estimated cost has gone from $10 million to $20.4 million in just a few lines.
  • The Capital Programme in the LTP states that $10.3 million, not $20 million, has been allocated to extending the capacity of the plant and to provide a new diposal option for the MCWWS over the 10 years of the LTP.
  •  The $20.4 million is stated to be “just for the treatment plant alone”.  It does not include the new disposal field which, according to WSP – KDC’s expert consultant - is an absolute necessity and is budgeted at $38 million.
  • Is the expenditure of $20.4 million for an extra 840 connections over ten years a good price to pay?
  •  Is the KDC really convinced an increase in capacity of 84 connections a year and 840 connections over ten years will satisfy the demand for connections from Mangawhai Central and other deveolopments?
  • What of the cost of the balance tank?  According to this week’s council briefing, because there is no money left in the kitty the $2.869 million cost of the tank (to fund deferred maintenance) will have to be brought forward from the $20.4 million allocated under the 2021/2031 LTP for capital upgrades.  Not only does it deplete the capital allocation for future capacity increases under the roadmap, it will also eat up 116  of the 840 development contributions anticipated in the next ten years to fund capacity increases.
  • The fallacy of development contributions funding infrastructure costs.  Increased infrastructure has to be funded out of debt.  Interest on debt, unless it is capitalised, has to be paid out of rates by the community as a whole.  Development contributions only kick in to repay debt when the infrastructure is actually built and is available for new connections to be made.  Even then it is tempting for a local authority to use the development contributions for other purposes.
  • Future development contributions are already allocated to existing debt under previous LTPs.  How can they be allocated to pay both historic debt and future debt? 

The elephant in the room is the historic debt still owing on the MCWWS.  This is the debt of $58 million for constructing the scheme, or at least what is left of that debt. 

That debt was allocated to different “communities” in the 2018/2028 LTP.  $18.4 million was allocated to the district-wide community to be paid through general rates.  That figure was reduced to $1.4 million by the commissioners through asset sales and a $5.2 million payment from the Auditor-General.  According to Mayor Jake, that remaining $1.4 million has now been repaid.

The elephantine issue is the remaining debt: 

  • $13.4 million was allocated to the existing Mangawhai community to be repaid over 30 years. 
  • $26.2 million of the debt was allocated by the KDC to the “future community” to pay its share of the costs of the scheme through development contributions over 40 years. 

That leaves $39.6 million of historic debt.  In addition, half the interest on the future community allocation has been capitalised and that will continue for forty years until the debt is repaid. 

This balance of the debt was ignored by Mayor Jake in his recent expression of effusive joy on repaying the $1.4 million district-wide allocation.  The balance of the debt is not identified or referred to in  any way in the draft 2021/2031 LTP.  It has become an embarrassment to the current council and has become the "buried debt".

The problem is the size of the historic debt.  A massive part of the loan monies to build the MCWWS was spent enriching those involved in one of the biggest rorts in local government history. The government directed KDC commissioners did not pursue those responsible, so a large part of the debt, the amount negligently or fraudulently incurred, remains payable by the community.  The development contributions charged over the past ten years have probably paid off the genuine costs of building the MCWWS, which leaves the community to fund the illegitimate part of the debt.

The KDC seriously miscalculated how the debt would be repaid.  Unfortunately the current council will not face up to the problem that has resulted.

Back in the dark days, in its secret and unlawful proposal to increase the size of the scheme and the costs, Beca promised a plant of 4,500 connections.  If that had been correct then the allocation of the debt over 30 and 40 years may have been successful.   The amount of development contributions collected over that time-span would have, most likely, repaid the whole debt.

The reality is that the scheme has struggled to make 2,000 connections, and that is with more capital funding over the past 10 years.  That means that any future development contributions are not used to pay off the historic debt, as was anticipated.  They are needed to pay off the capital costs of upgrades to increase the capacity of the treatment plant and the disposal field.  The cost of the balance tank for instance will absorb the next 116 development contributions.  All future development contributions will be applied, out of necessity, to future capital upgrades.

The forgotten historic debt sits hidden in the KDC accounts, gathering interest, and awaiting a council that has the integrity to face up to the problem.  Mayor Jake and the KDC staff have shown that their inclination is to keep the debt well and truly buried.  That approach will only change if the community realises what has happened and brings pressure to bear on the KDC.

The issue is blindingly simple.  If the development contributions from the future community are to be used to pay future debt which funds new infrastructure, who is to pay the remaining historic debt for the construction of the MCWWS?

In his further information provided to the hearing commissioners, Jim Sephton had this to say:

3.7 Connections to the [MCWWS] are provided on a first come first served availability for development basis

That will provide little comfort to MCL.  Millions already spent of planning and development costs but with minimum wastewater facilities for its proposals.  It must be getting desperate.

With only 84 connections available each year, and with a demand much greater than that from Mangawhai Central and other developments, the KDC might adopt an alternative strategy and auction off the connections to the highest bidder.  A connection might fetch far more than the standard development contributions and help defray the historic debt.

MCL’s reaction
MCL must be in a real lather.

Its water supply for Mangawhai Central appears to have evaporated.

It is being obliged to dredge some dried up watercourses to find water, and to build a humungous reservoir of an impossible size and at a huge cost to store what water it can eke out. 

MCL is going to be obliged to comply with the draconian provisions of the Water Services Bill once it is enacted.  It will get no help from the KDC.

Now MCL's wastewater services that it was relying on are fast disappearing down the drain. 

With the KDC’s pie in the sky “roadmap” for options for increasing capacity in the MCWWS, and its complete failure to front up to the historic debt on the MCWWS, it might be time for MCL to seriously consider constructing its own wastewater plant.  Or at least it would seem apprpriate to enter into a development agreement with the KDC to pay its share of the current system and the necessary upgrades

The KDC’s Engineering Standards state:

If the existing network does not have sufficient capacity at the nominated connection location to receive the number of sections or peak flows from the development, the Developer will either need to:

  • Design and construct an appropriately sized attenuating storage to reduce peak flows to level compatible with the network.
  • Convey sewage to a different location in the network where adequate capacity exists.
  • Pay for the required upgrade to the system

The first option is not feasible.  The MCWWS cannot cope with peak and storm flows at present.  The balance tank solution will hopefully resolve the immediate problems but could not cope with the demand from Mangawhai Central.  The disposal field is at capacity.

There is no capacity in an alternative location.

We are therefore left with option 3.  The KDC enters into a development agreement with the KDC whereby it meets some of the historic costs of the MCWWS to cover its share of the scheme as it is, and part of the necessary upgrade costs to cover future capacity.

We are getting used to the gung-ho, rah- rah- rah comments of Mayor Jake extolling his own personal achievements in steering the good ship SS Kaipara on a steady course.

In his latest MAYOR’S MEMO in the Mangawhai Focus and the Kaipara Lifestyler he celebrates the fact that the EcoCare debt has been paid.  This is what he has to say:

Before we start out into that next plan, a major milestone from former Kaipara times has recently been crossed and deserves special mention: the district-wide portion of the Mangawhai Community Waste Water Scheme has been paid in full, earlier than expected.  This legacy from a painful part of Kaipara’s story has hung heavily for years but a tough era has now passed.  I feel lighter for this and acknowledge all the hard work of many here, and the clouds continue to lift.  How we are moving on.  Keep safe as you go.

Really?  It is always hard to trust any figures emerging from the KDC but we must accept at face value what the Mayor says.  But look closely, the reason for his rejoicing is not that the EcoCare debt has been repaid, but that “the district-wide portion” of the debt has been repaid.  That description will be lost on most readers.

The overall debt referred to is the debt incurred in building the ill-fated EcoCare wastewater plant, now known as the Mangawhai Waste Water Community Scheme (MCWWS). 

The “district wide portion” is that part of that debt that the KDC commissioners dumped on all Kaipara ratepayers to pay for the incompetence of the KDC.  The rationale was that it was only fair that all ratepayers bear some of the burden given that the councillors and mayor who were responsible for the financial carnage represented the whole of the Kaipara community.

That district-wide proportion was to be paid out of general rates.  It has now been repaid, apparently.

The point that needs to be made is that while Mayor Jake beats his own drum about the repayment of this small portion of the overall debt, he remains absolutely silent about the major part of the debt that will remain a burden on the Mangawhai community for generations to come.

Some facts

The EcoCare plant opened in 2010, so it has been operating for the past 10 years.  Back in the dark days the KDC secretly agreed to increase the size of the plant and to increase the contract price without following the legal consultation process with the community, as required by the Local Government Act.

According to the Auditor-General’s report on the debacle, the cost of the EcoCare plant was estimated at about $63.3 million. 

The current 2018/2028 LTP noted that the EcoCare debt was $58 million which was allocated as follows:

  • $13.4 million to existing properties that are connected or were capable of being connected at the time.
  • $26.2 million by future property developers to be collected through development contributions.
  • $18.4 million through district-wide rates, which has now been reduced to around $1.4 million through the sale of council land and other assets and funds from the Office of the Auditor-General.

The Mayor’s Memo refers to the last category only.  But, as stated above, that part of the debt was reduced to $1.4 million during the commissioners’ appointment as a result of the sale of assets and a $5.3 million out of court settlement from the Auditor-General for her Office’s role in the EcoCare debacle.  As at 1 July 2018, when the LTP took effect, there was only $1.4 million allocated to that part of the debt.

So, if, according to the Mayor, the payment of that $1.4 million over the following 3 years brought an end to the legacy and painful part of Kaipara’s story that has hung heavily for years, are we entitled to ask about the rest of the debt that remains unpaid?

Mayor Jake may feel lighter and the clouds may have lifted around him, but what of the community that still has to bear the major part of that debt?

The 2018/2028 LTP states that the $13.4 million allocated to the existing Mangawhai community is to be repaid over 30 years.  The KDC has not revealed the current amount outstanding under this allocation.

The $26.2 million portion is allocated to what the LTP calls “future community” and is to be repaid over 40 years.  In the interim, 50% of the interest on that amount is to be paid from general rates and the other 50% capitalised and added to the debt, to be recovered from the future community development contributions.  On that basis, it is presumed that this part of the debt will continue to grow.   The current amount of this part of the debt is not known.

It is unclear when the 30 and 40 year periods started.  What is clear is that there is substantial amount of money still owing on the EcoCare plant after ten years and it may be many decades before it is repaid.

Fallacy of repayment

In the secret negotiation to increase the size of the EcoCare plant we were promised by Beca a plant with the capacity for 4,500 connections.  The reality is that the MCWWS has struggled to make it to 2,000 connections.  The difficulty that the current council has is that the capacity of the plant is fast running out with only 389 connections still available (figure provided by the KDC) before capacity is reached.  That means that there will be not enough connections from the “future community” to pay its allocated share of the original debt.  The plant will be long past its use by date in 40 years’ time.

The WSP report of 2019 estimates that the cost of a new disposal field at $38 million and that will be needed in the next few years.  So who will pay for that?  If new communities such as Mangawhai Central are allocated that new debt then who is to pay the substantial balance of the historic EcoCare debt?

Is the current council going to, yet again, dump the historic debt on to those currently connected to the MCWWS?  Or will it spread the burden over the whole of the district?

The Mayor’s celebration of a very minor repayment of debt, while the major part of that debt still hangs over Mangawhai, with no prospect of repayment, does nothing to give the community any confidence in the leadership of the KDC.  The reputation of KDC has already taken a severe beating because of its approach to Mangawhai Central and its grovelling endorsement of the proposal.  The Mayor’s misleading comments on the repayment of the debt, and his failure to recognise public concern over the balance of the historic debt, only increases the distrust of the community.

Misleading spin from the KDC

I attended the KDC council meeting on 20 January 2021 when Sue Davidson (General Manager Finance) presented the Draft Financial Strategy to be included in the 2021/2031 LTP.  Sue Davidson directed KDC staff “to communicate clearly that the Mangawhai Wastewater Treatment Plant debt has been repaid.”  I was surprised at that statement because, unless a miracle has happened, it is simply not true.  A minor portion of the debt had been repaid, but not the major part of the debt.  Yet the statement was repeated in the Minutes of the meeting.

It seems that the KDC has adopted this fake-facts approach to mislead the community into thinking that the historic debt is no longer an issue.

By the time Mayor Smith wrote his column the situation was fine-tuned discreetly with his obtuse reference to “district-wide portion”, but the high level of spin and hyperboles shows the clear intention to create the wrong impression about the historic debt.

THE KDC and Mayor Jake have failed to publicly reveal the blow out in costs in relation to the Dargaville building which KDC will lease from the NRC once it is completed.

In September 2019 Kaipara Concerns revealed the secret plans of the KDC to lease part of a building to be constructed in Dargaville by the NRC.  The new premises will replace the existing offices which have a doubtful future because of leaking and other issues.

Part of the negotiated agreement stipulated that the KDC would pay $400,000 for the fit-out of its offices.

Leap forward 16 months.  At the KDC council meeting of 20 January 2021 KDC staff revealed that the cost of the fit-out had increased to $1.2 million.  That is an increase of $800,000 or treble the original amount.

Councillors were less than pleased.  Councillor Victoria del la Varis-Woodcock was especially annoyed.  She asked why KDC staff had not negotiated a fixed price in the contract negotiations.  She also pointed out that the increase reflected badly on councillors who had voted to proceed with the leasing on the basis of the figures presented by staff, only to find later that the figures had been increased.  It diminished the credibility of councillors in the eyes of the community. 

Councillor del la Varis-Woodcock asked for her concerns to be noted, and she requested KDC staff to explain how the increase in the negotiated amount came about.

Councillor del la Varis-Woodcock’s concerns are not noted in the Minutes of the meeting.

Originally, in the halcyon days when Viranda courted the community with endless promises and financial inducements, with undertakings to consult on every issue, it was a given that it would have to provide its own water supply and wastewater system if Mangawhai Central was going to proceed.

Then, Viranda embraced the KDC, dumped the community, and spat the dummy in respect of providing the basic services for Mangawhai Central.

We all watched in amazement as the KDC staff and consultants endorsed the development proposals in every way and assured commissioners in two hearings (the supermarket consent and PC78) that there was adequate capacity for wastewater in the MCWWS.  That was despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The KDC and their consultants showed the same myopia in respect of water supply.  Despite the evidence of drought, and clear warnings that tank water on small sections and bore water did not guarantee an adequate water supply, they doggedly persisted with their alternative facts.

Perhaps the KDC and Viranda are now realising that they are back where they started.  Even if the commissioners rubber stamp PC 78, which is more than likely, the simple fact is that without water and without wastewater the proposal simply cannot proceed.  They may be successful in changing the plan, but that does not mean they can obtain subdivision consents and building consents if the lots are not adequately serviced for water and wastewater.

WATER SUPPLY  25.02.2021

In the resumed hearing earlier this month Mangawhai Central Limited (MCL) virtually acknowledged that its proposals for water supply were inadequate.  Harvesting rainwater on lots too small to have tanks of sufficient size was never going to work.  The right to draw water from a bore when all bores are struggling because of the drought was of no help.

MCL shocked everyone by announcing the water right granted by the NRC on 8 January 20.  It has the right to draw ground water from two unnamed tributaries of the Mangawhai Estuary.

The consent is two take water from the two locations at “high flow”, which will only occur in winter or when there is excessive rain.  That means that the water will have to be taken and stored in a reservoir for use in dry periods.

Future plans

At the resumption of the hearing earlier this month, counsel for the MCL revealed that MCL has no plans yet in respect of the taking of the water, the storage of the water, the treatment of the water or the reticulation of the water.  It suggested that a 100,000 m3 reservoir would be needed, but because of its size there may have to be several reservoirs.

Natural wetlands

Because the water take is from natural wetlands, MCL provided a legal opinion to establish that the water take consent complied with the newly-released Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Freshwater) Regulations 2020.  MCL argued that the proposal to take the water was a “specified infrastructure” because MCL was a “lifeline utility” under Part B of Schedule 1 of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 because it is “An entity that supplies or distributes water to the inhabitants of a city district, or other place”.

Counsel for MCL also argued that Regulation 52 would not apply because:

We are advised by the independent experts who have undertaken investigations and reporting on the Proposal that the ongoing water takes and associated activities will not (and are not likely to) result in the “complete or partial drainage of all or part of a natural wetland”.  Given that water will only be taken when flows are above median flows, we are advised that the take will not (or at least are very unlikely to) result in the complete or partial drainage of all or part of the wetland(s) involved or a reduction in their extent.

Water flow

MCL provided an expert report on the water flow at the two locations as at August 2020.  Because there was no flow monitoring data available, the assessments of flow was based on the expert’s “professional judgement and understanding of the local soil type and underlying geology”, along with NIWA’s estimate of rainfall and evaporation, and the application of standard modelling.

The conclusion reached was that there would be only minor changes to the inundation of the wetland area during moderate to high flow events.

However, this assessment came with a substantial caveat:

It should be noted, while the catchment flow modelling and reservoir water balance assessment detailed above provide an appropriate preliminary assessment, the catchment flow models have not been calibrated/validated against measured flow data.  Therefore, the reliability analysis and assessment of impact on downstream flows is considered indicative relative responses only at this stage, and we recommend installation of flow gauges at both take locations to confirm the median flows.

Site of water takes
The plan below shows the site of the two water takes.  They are both culverts that run under the farm track that runs off Old Waipu Road through the middle of the MCL land. 

Take 1 is in the natural wetland that runs south-east into the farm of Glennis McCarthy and then through culverts under Molesworth Drive into the Estuary. 

Take 2 is on a watercourse that immediately after the take runs north-east into the McCarthy land and then into the wetland.

Photos of the two take locations

Take 1

Take 2 (February 2021)


Take 2 watercourse (February 2021)


A mountain to climb

MCL has a veritable mountain to climb in proving that it has a secure and adequate water supply to service Mangawhai Central.  The KDC has washed its hands of any reticulated water supply for Mangawhai, so MCL is all on its own. 

There is absolutely no guarantee that the two water takes will supply enough water within the requirements of the NRC for flow volume, and the placement and construction of the reservoir will create untold problems and add hugely to the cost of the project.

Water Services Bill

The Water Services Bill is currently before the select committee of parliament.  The Bill is draconian.  It places strict requirements on water suppliers that will be very difficult to meet and will make water a very expensive commodity. 

Mangawhai Central will have to become a water supplier and comply with all the statutory requirements.  The KDC will also have oversight obligations that it will not be able to shirk or ignore.

The full effects of the legislation are still not apparent, but it will be a nightmare for any water supplier. (See the post below for details of the Bill)

So, even if the commissioners rubber stamp the PC78, as they did with the supermarket consent, MCL is basically back to square one with its issues with adequate supply and the new statutory regime..


One of the experts for MCL provided this insight in its report to the NRC to support the water take application:

Mangawhai largely relies on rainwater collection systems for potable and domestic use.  An options assessment has indicated groundwater, because of existing saline intrusion, is a less viable option as a resource for the proposed development, and water supplied from harvesting rainwater off roofs is not sufficient for meeting firefighting and potable water needs.

So, the Mangawhai Central proposal hinges on drawing sufficient water from the two water takes shown in the pictures above. 

One wonders how MCL could have gone so far, spent so much money, and employed so many consultants, and yet they have ended up two pathetic, occasional watercourses to supply its development.


Rumour has it that the commissioners’ decision is not too far away.

Next:  The wastewater fiasco

For earlier post go here