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Published: 2014-07-25 00:00:00

A prestigious award for the Tui Mine remediation work at Te Aroha has come in the same week as the project reaching a major milestone, with the transfer of assets to the Department of Conservation and Matamata-Piako District Council.

The $21.7 million remediation project at the heavily contaminated site has involved Waikato Regional Council, the Ministry for the Environment (MfE), Matamata-Piako District Council (MPDC), the Department of Conservation (DOC) and local iwi.

This week the regional council and design firm URS were jointly awarded the prestigious Arthur Mead Award by the Auckland branch of the Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand. This recognised the project’s professionalism and ethical approach, and the extensive effort put into ensuring good environmental outcomes at the site.

Past problems meant Tunakohoia Stream was contaminated with heavy metals leaching from the mine and it was unsuitable for swimming, fishing, drinking or irrigation. The Tui Stream was dead and unable to support any aquatic life. Both streams flow into the Waihou River, and eventually into the Firth of Thames, so the mine’s toxic legacy has extended well beyond Te Aroha.

However, post-remediation monitoring undertaken for the regional council has shown an excellent improvement in the ecological health of both the Tunakohoia and Tui streams.

Meanwhile, the formal transfer of capital assets at the site to DOC and MPDC marks the final completion of construction works at the site and the project entering a “maintenance” phase, said the regional council’s special projects manager Ghassan Basheer.

“This transfer means the responsibility for the ongoing management of the completed assets and works now formally sit with the organisations who own the land involved,” said Mr Basheer.

“However, the regional council, the Ministry for the Environment and iwi will remain involved in the implementation of maintenance and environmental programmes, as well as cultural monitoring until 2016.

“It is very satisfying for all involved to reach this final phase of the project which has been an excellent example of co-operation, with central, regional and local government working with iwi and the community to help heal the maunga of Te Aroha for future generations.”