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Funding Sought For Kopeopeo Canal Remediation Project

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council will be making a second request to the Ministry for the Environment for funding to remediate the contaminated Kopeopeo canal after its first request was refused.

NOT DONE YET: This sign on the Keepa Road bridge advises the public that while swimming in the canal is fine, fishing and eeling remains unsafe. CHARLOTTEJONES/LDR


The council is seeking funding from the ministry’s Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund to bring the ministry’s contribution to the Kopeopeo Canal Remediation Project up to 50 percent.
To date, the project has cost $22 million of which the ministry has contributed $8 million.


Dredging and validation of the 5.1 kilometre canal project was completed in August last year and the council has now moved into the bioremediation phase of the contaminated sediment.
Sediment has been inoculated with fungus and 400 trees have been planted with a further 1400 due for planting this winter.


The council asked the ministry for further funding in March 2019 but it was refused because the remediation fund was oversubscribed.
The council’s risk and assurance committee has decided to reapply for funding in this year’s funding round.


Chairperson councillor David Love said the letter the council received from the ministry implied that it would have been successful in gaining funding had the fund not already been exhausted.
Applications for this funding round close at the end of March. If successful, the ministry would then have contributed half of the overall cost.


As well as the funding issue there was also concern raised at the committee meeting about what would happen with the remediation of the canal on private property.
Staff in charge of the project said they would prefer to have the funding issue sorted for the first project before beginning another but said it would need to be a joint effort between the council, the ministry and the private land owners.


The council has remediated a 5.1km stretch of the canal. The two privately-owned sections yet to be remediated total 4.1km.
Staff noted that there was a chance eels from the unremediated section could migrate into the remediated section during a flood and give the false impression that the remediation had not been successful.

FINAL STAGES: The bioremediation site will be reopened to the public this weekend and access to the Whakatane River will be reinstated. CHARLOTTEJONES/LDR


To mitigate this, project manager Brendon Love has recommended passive in-situ sampling devices that can measure dioxins available in the food chain.
This will be used alongside baseline tissue sampling of eels which staff believe would provide public assurance that the remediation has been successful.


While eel sampling, groundwater and salt marsh monitoring is expected to continue for some years, the canal is now safe for water recreational activities such as kayaking and swimming.


A karakia will be performed on Saturday after which public access to the water will be reinstated.

Sidebar: What is the Kopeopeo Canal Remediation Project?

The Kopeopeo Canal was contaminated between the 1950s and late 1980s as a result of stormwater discharges from the old Whakatane Board Mill which treated timber using Pentachlorophenol.
The Kopeopeo Canal Remediation Project has moved 35,000 cubic metres of dioxin contaminated sediment from the canal to containment sites for bioremediation.
Bioremediation of the sediment is expected to take 15 years and will use two different types of fungi and bacteria consortium to break down the dioxins and clean the contaminated sediment.
The project won Best Regional Remediation Project at last year’s Australian Land and Groundwater Association awards ceremony.

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