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Sanitary works subsidy scheme approved

Health Minister Annette King today announced government approval for a sewage treatment subsidy scheme to help small to medium sized communities upgrade or build new treatment plants.

"Sanitary works are the most effective and usually the most efficient means of managing the risks to public health associated with drinking water and inadequate sewage treatment.

"The subsidy will be available to communities with populations of between 100 and 10,000 people, many of which have until now had limited ability to fund new or upgrade existing treatment plants to Public Health and Resource Management Act requirements," Ms King said.

As well as improved sewage treatment, the scheme also covered new works to add fluoride to community drinking-water supplies where communities chose to do so.

Funding for the Sanitary Works Subsidy Scheme would start on 1 July 2003 but applications would be received from 1 January 2003 to give communities time to plan.

Ms King said the subsidy scheme was expected to cost $15 million a year. Funding would be prioritised for communities with high measured rates of water-borne communicable disease, significant health inequalities and a limited ability to fund their own scheme. Subsidies of 50 per cent may be available for some communities with up to 2000 people.

"Without the help of a subsidy, a small community with a badly-maintained sewage treatment system could expose the community to disease-causing pathogens or bugs. Storm water or sewage overflows, perhaps caused by heavy rain, can increase the risk of water-borne diseases travelling through a community.

"This subsidy will be an important incentive to communities to encourage greater use of sanitary works so as to achieve better health, environmental and cultural outcomes," Ms King said.


BACKGROUND

The Sanitary Works Subsidy Scheme (SWSS) is primarily aimed at improving sewage treatment and disposal for small, largely rural communities that are unable to fund the necessary upgrades to meet public health and resource management requirements. As well as improved sewage treatment, the scheme also covers new works required to add fluoride to community drinking water supplies for those communities that wish to.

Details on the Government's scheme are listed below. Further details and criteria will be developed prior to the scheme starting on 1 July 2003. Details to date:

For sewerage:
a) Priority will be given to communities where there are health risks posed by the community's existing treatment, disposal and discharge system.
b) The subsidy will cover all the capital works required to obtain the necessary resource consent under the Resource Management Act. This includes environmental, cultural and public health requirements.
c) The size and definition of "eligible community" will be communities between 100 and 10,000 people.
d) The maximum subsidy for eligible capital works will be 50 percent for communities up to 2000, reducing in a straight line to 10 percent for communities of 10,000.
e) The socio-economic conditions of the community in question will be considered when reviewing applications.
f) The size of subsidy to a community sanitary works must be at least matched by an equivalent contribution from the relevant territorial authority and there must be an undertaking by that authority to ensure adequate maintenance and operating arrangements.
g) The responsible territorial authority may be required to have constraints on its expenditure as part of its grant agreement to ensure the benefits of the subsidy are passed onto ratepayers.

For fluoridation:
a) The subsidy will cover 50 percent of the cost of the eligible capital works.
b) Expenditure on water fluoridation will not exceed more than 10 percent of the total annual appropriation for the SWSS.

Any SWSS would not apply to industrial discharges, new or future subdivisions, domestic wastewater discharges within the property boundary, maintenance costs, city councils, upgrading existing reticulation systems.


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