An holistic approach to manage "the big three" water works in Hawke's Bay is being promoted as a possibility to better co-ordinate work on cleaning up the quality of treated wastewater being discharged into the sea.
Napier, Hastings and Central Hawke's Bay had different treatment systems and separate consents to process wastewater but in the end it all headed out to the same location, Hawke Bay.
Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule floated the idea of a region-wide plan to look after the built waters which included drinking, waste and storm water, when the Hastings District Council's tangata whenua wastewater joint committee meeting on Friday.
The committee was updated on work for a new permit for the East Clive wastewater treatment plant to discharge to the sea. It also heard an update on a cultural impact assessment on the plant, in progress by consultant Bayden Barber.
"I am wondering whether marae and hapu would prefer we went slightly more regional when it came to applying for consents and the framework everyone could work under.
"At the moment there's no consistency and it would be a powerful recommendation for this group to say to the mayors and chairs of the region's councils that Hawke's Bay needs to work out a holistic plan to deal with water, particularly wastewater in the first instance."
Mr Yule said councils operated under different time frames, in terms of the number of years permits were granted for their wastewater treatment plants.
"I am also mindful that Central Hawke's Bay puts wastewater into Tukituki River, which ends up in our area and out to sea, and they are miles behind in their consenting process. We should be going better but largely we don't have a plan to line things up.
"These consents are for such a long period of time and involve big amounts of money and we just have to think differently about what we're going to do in the future."
Committee member Gordon Paku said he had been "hammering on for years" about the possibility of having one hearing for people to have their say on stormwater, wastewater and drinking water issues in the region.
Mr Barber's report aimed to document the cultural significance of the area where the East Clive plant discharges into the sea, the potential effects on cultural values and solutions to problems.
His meetings with marae and hapu revealed people were still cautious about collecting seafood because of an ongoing perception that the wastewater continued to pollute the sea.
But the committee accepted it had only been about 15 months since the new biotrickling filter tanks began operating at East Clive and it may take a few more years yet to see the benefit.
The committee was also keen to find ways to encourage people to visit the plant in one of three open days it had planned this year, to better explain its technical operation and how it treats wastewater.