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Whakapapa Sewage Scheme Launched

13 June 2003 Media Statement

Whakapapa Sewage Scheme Launched

The Minister of Tourism and MP for Taupo Mark Burton today welcomed Minister of Conservation Chris Carter’s decision to grant $4 million in capital funding to enable the Department of Conservation (DOC) to start work next summer on the Whakapapa Ski field and Village Sewage Scheme.

“This is exciting news for all who have worked long and hard over the last ten years to make this a reality,” Mark Burton said.

The sewage problem on Mt Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park has resulted from the establishment of ski lodges in the Whakapapa Ski Field in the 1930s and the growth of ski facilities over the last twenty years. Present sewage systems, septic tanks or holding tanks require considerable effort to empty and always face the risk of leakage or overflow onto the mountain.

Tongariro National Park is a dual World Heritage Area, noted for its natural and cultural values. The large number of septic tanks on the ski field and discharge to water from the existing treatment plant at Whakapapa Village is seen as both offensive to iwi and incompatible with the criteria under which the park was granted its World Heritage status.

“World Heritage status is not given lightly, and to be one of only a handful to receive recognition twice confers special status to Tongariro. Although the government is responsible for management of all our protected areas, the world expects enhanced protection for the elite sites added to the World Heritage listing,” said Chris Carter.

Ngati Tuwharetoa Paramount Chief Te Heuheu Tukino IV Horonuku gifted the central North Island’s sacred peaks to the nation in 1887 as the nucleus of New Zealand’s first national park. The park receives up to one million visitors a year, many of whom make use of the facilities on Whakapapa Ski field or in Whakapapa Village.

“Conservation staff have worked closely with iwi representatives, members of the Ruapehu Mountain Clubs Association, Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL), the Kah Corporation, Skotel Alpine Resort, and the Ruapehu District Council to develop a practical solution for piping sewage from all lodges and ski field facilities to the existing Whakapapa Village sewage treatment plant. The treated effluent will be discharged underground through an irrigation network,” Mark Burton said.

“I acknowledge the positive support the Department of Conservation has received from all involved, including the assistance of the Ruapehu District Council in the intricate planning detail of a major scheme such as this.”

Resource consents for the work have been granted by Horizons MW, and the initial part of the contract will involve reticulation from the ski field to the Whakapapa Treatment Plant. A further stage of the project will include the upgrading of the treatment plant to cope with the increased inflow. The scheme is being funded on a user pays basis, with costs on the ski field being split between RAL and the lodges, and in Whakapapa Village between the accommodation, concessionaires and DOC.

“The Whakapapa Sewage Scheme has received international attention through a visit from the Japanese Fujisan Club, which is looking for solutions to sewage problems on the iconic Mt Fuji. Fuji receives more than 500,000 visitors to the top of the peak in a two-month period, leaving those seeking World Heritage status for the mountain with a massive sewage headache. Solving their waste problem will take them one step closer to a World Heritage inscription. They are watching our progress very closely,” Mark Burton said today.


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