Justine Matatoa Flanagan: Sewage disposal needs land – and political will

Tuesday March 24, 2020 Published in Letters to the Editor

Dear editor,

Improving water quality in the lagoon cannot be at expense of the reef (“MFEM confirms preferred option for future wastewater treatment”, March 21).


Even with advanced treatment, ocean outfall may cause harm due to changes in salinity – freshwater kills coral. Without a reef, we will be subject to the full force of the sea.

The ministry of Financial and Economic Management now says land-based disposal is preferred. But if no land is offered, "ocean outfall will then be the only viable option".

Government is making landowners culpable. The reef has been taken hostage. This is manipulative and disingenuous.

Has the MTVKTV Project Management Unit formulated a realistic and practical model of a land-disposal system to discuss with landowners?

Saturday's advertisement is the first public notice that a number of unconnected, smaller parcels of land could be used. Given land tenure, it is unlikely this could be provided by any single landowner.

Rather it will be a wider family group/tribe who will need to collectively negotiating access to undeveloped/unalienated land.

In September 2019 members of the Tangiiau family met with the Project Management Unit to discuss lease arrangements, market rentals, field management models, etc.

We also took them to an indicative location in Avana and offered to let them collect soil and climate data.

We next heard from the Project Management Unit late last month. Not to further the discussion; but to advise that the ocean outfall pipe may run alongside another family land, beachfront at Turangi.

Government's actions belie the public relations spin. Ocean outfall should not be an option for wastewater disposal. Land-based disposal is the only option, and what is needed is not only land – it's political will.

Justine Matatoa Flanagan
Ngati Teaia/Tangiiau

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