Watercare pushes for treatment facility despite warnings of kauri threat

March 13, 2019

Watercare pushes for treatment facility despite warnings of kauri threat

Titirangi Protection Group co-chair Gina Mitchell prepares protest signs for the battle with Watercare. Photo: supplied

Furious Titirangi citizens packed into Lopdell House last weekend to discuss the ongoing saga of a proposed water-treatment facility just a short walk from the village itself.

Proposed in 2016, the new treatment plant will replace the existing plant, which was built in 1928 and currently provides 20 per cent of Auckland’s clean water.

The site’s reconstruction will mean 3.6ha of forest will be removed from the area.

A 2018 Watercare-commissioned ecological-values report found the surrounding forest is largely comprised of at-risk, critical, or threatened plant and animal species, including kauri trees, lizards and tui.

Titirangi ecologist Tina Samuelu has written her own ecological report, and noted an even larger number of native birds and trees, seemingly missed by the Watercare report.

Ms Samuelu says she is concerned Watercare’s report, produced by consultants Boffa Miskell, does not take into account how many bird and bat nests will be destroyed, as well as how the local insect population will be devastated by deforestation.

Watercare local board manager Brent Evans says the aim of the Boffa Miskell report was to identify the sensitive ecology in the area to help avoid, remedy and mitigate for adverse effects.

“Watercare also provided the community liaison group with an independent ecologist to work alongside [Boffa Miskell] in their assessment.

“The resulting study has been one of the most intensive and comprehensive for any consent application undertaken by Watercare,” Mr Evans says.

However, Ms Samuelu’s concerns are being echoed by Save Our Kauri Trust trustee Winnie Charlesworth, who says she believes the construction will wipe out kauri in the area.

“It’s pouring fuel on fire.

“The council’s own protections against kauri dieback aren’t designed for earthworks. They closed all the walking tracks due to fears over dieback but they’ll still let the bulldozers in."

Also in the firing line is the Bishop Kauri, one of the largest trees in the area at 9.2m in girth - only 6m smaller than New Zealand's largest kauri tree, Tane Mahuta, in Northland's Waipoua Forest.

The Titirangi site in question falls under the 2008 Auckland Unitary Plan as one of only 20 out of 3226 areas that meets all of the requirements to be a significant ecological area.

Mr Evans says a key factor in choosing the site was its existing designation for water supply purposes.

He applications for resource consents for the project will outline its negative effects as well as how Watercare plans to cushion these impacts.

A Department of Conservation spokesperson says DOC is “taking an interest” in the project due to its impact on native forest, and is communicating with Watercare.

Mr Evans says Watercare is planning to lodge applications in a few months, which will be publicly notified – meaning the public may make submissions to be heard by independent commissioners.

Despite the Watercare report, DOC say it’s too early to comment on the ecological impact of the plan because it is yet to review the proposal and assess its potential ecological impact.

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