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Oratia residents oppose Watercare plans

Oratia residents have met face to face with the organisation that could be demolishing up to 18 of their homes.

Watercare is in the process of finding a location to build their new $300 million-plus water-treatment plant.

The council’s water company needs to replace the Huia water treatment plan, which is 90-years-old. It plans to boost capacity by up to 15 percent to meet growth in north-west Auckland.

From 44 potential sites, Watercare has narrowed the options down to four – two in Oratia and two in Huia. The suitability of the sites is based on environmental, social, cultural and economic factors.

In Oratia, the two sites on Parker Rd are ideal because they have good elevation and plenty of open space but the cultural impacts are already proving significant.

While in Huia, if the option to rebuild the existing water treatment plant was chosen, 20 percent of Auckland’s water would be taken out for over two years, and there would be environmental impacts on the native bush at both sites.

The meeting held in Oratia’s District School Hall on Sunday evening, saw over one thousand people attend, including some prestigious public figures.

The meeting is the third to have taken place so far as part of the local group Save Oratia’s efforts to ward off Watercare.

But this meeting stood apart with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and Watercare Chief Executive Raveen Jaduram in attendance.

Other politicians and community leaders were also invited to address the meeting, including Deputy Prime Minister and Oratia resident Paula Bennett and former Mayor of Waitakere City Bob Harvey.

Save Oratia Chairman Paul Goldsmith chair the meeting and started off by telling Goff to look to Oratia as an example of what Auckland should aspire to be as a city.

“Community and spirit are what will make Auckland the most liveable city in the world,” said Goldsmith.

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennet has been a resident of Oratia for the last eight years and says she feels “privileged to call it home”.

Before the meeting, Bennet said she had to seek advice for how involved she could be in the matter so that she wasn’t seen to be using her position to benefit her.

Bennett stated:“I think this place is the wrong choice…I will stand with the residents of Oratia.”

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff was quick to inform everybody that he was not able to instruct Watercare on what they should do. Rather, that he was at the meeting “to listen and to see that the correct processes are followed” as he believes “[Oratia’s] concern is a real one”.

“Until you have been to the proposed sites, you don’t understand why you [Oratia] are so protective of your community,” said Goff. And because Watercare has to consider the significant impacts on the community, he explained, “I don’t believe they’ll choose Oratia”.

Watercare Chief Executive Raveen Jaduram responded to residents’ opposition at the meeting.

There were concerns that the decision to choose the Parker Rd sites for the new water-treatment-plant had already been made by Watercare since they had already purchased the property at 130 Parker Rd.

However, Jaduram assured the Oratia residents that no decision had been made, that this was a standard procedure and that if the Parker Rd location was not chosen then this land would be put back on the market.

Watercare was heavily criticised over the consulting process, with opposing locals describing it as “inhumane” and “disgraceful” with a “lack of empathy”.

An Oratia resident whose home is in the “red zone” was taken aback at the way she was informed that her home might be demolished to make way for the new water treatment plant.

“A letter dropped in my letterbox is not an appropriate way to treat us… it was very broad and up in the air… you can’t even imagine the stress this has put on our family,” said the resident.

Oratia residents thanked Watercare for consulting them at all, as they typically wouldn’t to this, but have pleaded that if the Titirangi site is chosen, that Watercare consult the locals “entirely differently”.

When asked if Oratia was still option one out of the other sites, Jaduram responded that that was “difficult to answer, the decision is not for one person to make… Have confidence in Watercare and the council that it will make the right decision.”

After the meeting, another resident said: “I do feel more positive… they would be mad (to go ahead with the Oratia plan) because if they think we’re going to go quietly away, we’re not.”

The decision for the location of the water-treatment-plant will be made in late May.

Newsbeat journalist Rebecca Scheib finds out what the locals thought of the meeting with Watercare and Phil Goff:

Rebecca Scheib
Rebecca's analyzing and overthinking nature used to get the best of her imagination but at the NZ Radio Training School she intends to harness it to challenge the boundaries of others' imaginings.
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