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PM's Speech At Mangere Sewage Plant

Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister

Opening Address Mangere Sewage Treatment Plant - Mangere Auckland

Today is a celebration of the completion of the 5 year, half billion dollar Project Manukau – Auckland’s biggest infrastructure investment in a generation.

It is a project we can all take tremendous pleasure and pride in. This project marks the end of the sewage ponds and the move to sophisticated land-based treatment of Auckland’s sewage. Today we open the shoreline discharge structure, which will discharge high quality water into the sea.

There has been much more to this project than just replacing the old oxidation ponds. Project Manukau has also included dredging and removing three and a half million cubic metres of sludge from the bottom of the ponds; restoring 13 kilometres of coastline to its natural state, the planting of over a quarter of a million, eco-sourced native trees; and the establishment of a close liaison with tangata whenua, to whom it means so much to have the harbour restored.

Commitment to a major environmental project like this goes a long way to explaining why Watercare is winning national and international recognition for its work.

Last year Watercare won the Unlimited/Massey University survey of New Zealand corporate environmental responsiveness for the second consecutive year. It was also chosen by the London-based consultancy ‘SustainAbility’, as one of the top 100 companies in the world for corporate reporting on sustainable business practices. That meant that Watercare was ranked in the same league as international companies like Proctor & Gamble, BMW, and Lufthansa, which is a huge achievement.

Congratulations are due to the staff and management of Watercare and its contractors, and to the engineers and workers at Manukau Wastewater Services – the joint venture comprising Fletcher Construction, CH2M Beca, and Australian Water Services – which has built this plant with Watercare.

This sewage treatment plant has been designed to be sustainable and to have a minimal impact on the environment. Sustainable development is a path the government has committed to. We are committed to work with all stakeholders to build a sustainable future for New Zealand.

To support the process of sustainability the government has launched a range of policies and strategies including: the Growth and Innovation Framework, the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy, the Climate Change Programme, the NZ Transport Strategy, the NZ Waste Strategy, and most recently the Sustainable Development Programme of Action.

The New Zealand Waste Strategy has targets for upgrading wastewater treatment facilities and for using sewage sludge beneficially or at least treating it prior to landfill. The aim is to reduce the production of methane and leachate, which endangers water quality. We also recognise that trade waste inputs need to be carefully controlled to improve water quality and to enable the beneficial use of biosolids.

There is a need to reduce the amount of rubbish going to landfill, and waste sludge is a large portion of that in Auckland. Wellington has already achieved great advances in this respect. I am hopeful that consideration might be given to further treat and beneficially use the sludge produced by these new works to further reduce our methane emissions in line with New Zealand’s Kyoto Protocol responsibilities.

A number of other local authorities have recently upgraded their sewage treatment plants. Now, over a third undertake treatment to a tertiary level similar to Mangere. Yet still more than three quarters of treatment plants discharge effluent into waterways, and nearly two thirds are treating effluent to secondary level or below. That means there is a need for significant improvement, if we are to continue to live with, and utilise our water resources without a negative effect over the long term.

Research undertaken by the Ministry of Health estimates costs of over $700 million to upgrade the rest of the country’s sewerage systems to meet public health and/or environmental needs. This will not be a simple task, but we must embark on the journey and the completion of this Wastewater Treatment Plant is a giant leap forward.

Water is one of the four major areas of the government’s Action Plan for Sustainable Development. Clean, abundant water has long been a key element of economic prosperity and of achieving good public health standards. Water quality and allocation issues are urgent and we’ve still got a big work programme ahead of us.

That includes working on better ways to conserve and allocate available freshwater, addressing the quality of drinking-water, and involving all stakeholders in overcoming the threat to Lake Taupo and similar iconic water bodies.

A water quality issue of great concern is the overflow of raw sewage to our waters. Obviously raw sewage overflows result in significant health and environmental risks.

We urge providers of water supply and sewage services to look at the whole “environmental footprint” of their business. Sewerage services have implications for effluent to waterways, energy use, biosolids to land, and air emissions (odour and climate change impacts from methane).

We need to work closely together to challenge the way people view and value waste and water resources. In the next two weeks the ‘Reduce Your Rubbish’ television campaign will be launched. It is an example of government working closely with a range of stakeholders to give consistent environmental messages nationwide.

Project Manukau too is an example of government, in this case at the local government level, working closely with a wide range of stakeholders. You have achieved fantastic results, in what could have been a very difficult project, to produce a world class wastewater treatment plant.

Through Project Manukau and the opening of the Mangere Wastewater Treatment Plant we will be handing the environment over to the next generation in a better condition than we found it.


I am now going to open the gates of the shoreline discharge structure, and formally declare it open. The water that will empty into the harbour over the next few hours is so clean it is possible to swim within sight of where we are standing today

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