19 December 2019

Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s Kopeopeo Canal Remediation Project in Whakatāne has scooped the Australasian Land and Ground Water Association (ALGA) project excellence award for Best Regional Remedial Project at last month’s awards ceremony.

Over the last few years, the project had successfully completed the removal and storage of around 35,000m3 of contaminated sediment into two containment sites. It is being treated alongside the canal in line with iwi aspirations to heal the land within the rohe. This substantial undertaking to ensure the contamination is safely removed and contained and make the canal safe for future generations has now been recognised by the industry body promoting sustainable management of contaminated land and groundwater, ALGA.

“The Kopeopeo Project was recognised for outstanding work as the Best Regional Remediation project and we were also runners up in two other categories – the best Sustainable Remediation Project and Best Remedial Project (over $1m). There are some incredibly complex and large-scale remediation works happening within Australasia at this time and to have the recognition of peers for our work here in Whakatāne was an honour,” Brendon Love, Project Manager said.

Caption: Kopeopeo Project Leaders, Ken Tarboton (Engineer’s Representative), Brendon Love (Project Manager) and Bruce Crabbe (Project Director) receive the Australasian Land and Ground Water Association award for Best Regional Remediation Project and runner up in two other categories.

Mr Love said that the success of the project was because of the hard work of many people involved. Remediation on this scale is often funded through development returns. Regional land values often do not make remediation project commercially viable. In this case the project was able to be completed through the financial contributions of BOPRC and the Ministry for the Environment’s Contaminated Site Remediation Fund. 

“We certainly couldn’t have got a project of this scale off the ground in regional New Zealand without the focus of MfE and I’d like to acknowledge their role in bringing national support to a local project.

“I’d also like to acknowledge the contractors, in particular EnviroWaste who led the construction and dredging team over here for many years.

“The community have been incredibly involved in this project and supportive of the outcomes we have been working to achieve. In particular the Community Liaison Group and Chair John Pullar were an invaluable link between the project and the community. The whole stakeholder engagement phase of the project was one aspect that was acknowledged by the ALGA judges assessing the project. We went from a situation where many were opposed to the project in 2014, paused to consider their concerns and then developed a method that dealt with them. This engagement process was hard work but very rewarding once you see the outcomes from it” Mr Love said.

Mr Love said that the containment sites were starting to look more like their final form, with clean fill now covering most of the sites, grass seeded and the first of the trees planted.

“The containment sites we have built are working well and the final layer of capping, grass seeding and tree planting is getting closer to completion. The scientists are continuing their work on implementing the bioremediation or treatment phase of the contained sediment.

“The big impact locally is that the remediated canal is now safe for recreational users – kayaking, boating, bird watching, any number of other aquatic activities. It is worth remembering that eeling and fishing are still restricted in the canal until long term monitoring results confirm that eel tissue is safe for consumption. As a community we should be very proud of what we have achieved here,” Mr Love said.