A demand for improved sewerage disposal systems across Auckland is fuelling Council’s efforts to upgrade the operation of household septic tanks.
A trial to allow properties to borrow up to $35,000 from Auckland Council to upgrade or replace failing wastewater systems has been given the green light.
Council will start a two-year trial in Little Oneroa, Piha, Bethells Beach and Karekare, as part of a strategy to stop pollution from the 50,000 septic tanks in the region.
Households will be able to borrow up to $35,000 from Council, which they can pay back over 15 years at 7% interest.
The trial will be reviewed in 2018, when a regional rollout will be considered.
The programme will be funded from the $9 million Retrofit Your Home budget, which allows households to borrow $5000 to install insulation and heating. Up to $600,000 a year is being set aside for the trial.
If the budget is fully subscribed, about 200 homes will be unable to receive funding in the Retrofit scheme. Under Council’s debt ceiling policy, the fund cannot be topped-up.
About 1000 households will be eligible for the trial, but Council estimates that only about 30 households a year will join the scheme because of the high costs.
At a meeting of the Governing Body on December 17, Rodney’s Cr Penny Webster asked if the subsidy could be made available to other areas if the budget wasn’t exhausted.
Environmental services manager Gael Ogilvie said that would be explored.
A Council report on the trial, written by catchments and incentives manager Viv Sherwood, said Waiheke and Waitakere were selected because they had a history of faecal contamination in popular swimming spots and there was strong community demand for improved sewerage systems.
Ms Sherwood said Auckland had a region-wide problem with faecal contamination and on-site wastewater systems were the main cause.
Earlier this year, Council inspected 29 wastewater systems on the West Coast, and found 40 per cent of systems had significant issues. Even newer systems had problems due to a lack of maintenance.
Systems failed due to old age, poor maintenance and changes in household or site requirements. Many baches were now used as family homes and the systems could not cope. High seasonal usage, such as the summer holidays, could also overload a system.
Council is also looking at introducing a region-wide targeted rate to ensure all septic tank owners have their tanks pumped out once every three years.
The rural sewerage rate has been in place in the legacy Waitakere City Council since 1998, funding pump-outs and cleaning of septic tanks, long drops, grease traps and grey water systems, covering about 4300 systems.
A decision will be made when existing contracts end in 2018.
The trial will be included in consultation on the 2016/17 Annual Plan in February.
Meanwhile, in Rodney, a $15,000 programme to reduce water pollution from septic tanks in Ti Point and Whangateau started this month.
Council staff will be going door-to-door to raise awareness of septic tank maintenance and a small number of no-obligation, confidential site inspections will be available to homeowners.
Ms Ogilvie says a public meeting may also be held early this year.
“We will be consulting with the community and iwi in Whangateau township and Ti Point, as well as the Local Board.”
Rodney Local Board has set aside $5000 for the programme, with Council contributing a further $10,000.