Northlanders (boot scooters) NZ Tour 2016
On the 29th April a group of eight adventurers began an epic journey to Aotearoa. This group of people came from all parts of Australia with different backgrounds and interests, however we all had one common interest, this being water and wastewater.
The following day by day account hopefully captures the interesting places we visited and the extraordinary people we met along the way.
With everything hopefully packed, part of the group met at the Melbourne Airport, the others were coming from Sydney and Brisbane. It’s always interesting that initial meeting with people you haven’t met before. The nervousness, trepidation, awkward hello’s? Thankfully we are quickly placed in different areas of the plane which in hindsight we should have appreciated more, the solitude and quiet time was remarkable.
We arrive in Auckland around 5.00pm their time and have the usually extraction problems that happen at airports. We meet up with the other members of the trip, so more nervous hellos and awkwardness. We also meet for the first time our tour guide for the week, Damien Lawsen. Once we have located our rooms we all meet up at the bar for refreshments and snacks. People begin to loosen up at this stage with possibly some members becoming a little bit to loose by the end of the night.
After a good night’s sleep the trip has an early start. Our first plant visit is the Rosedale WWTP which is the 2nd largest WWTP in Auckland where we meet up with Sanjay. This plant caters for a population of 232,000 (Devonport to Long Bay) and has primary, secondary and tertiary levels of treatment. First impression of the plant is great with manicured lawns and terrific site layout. I still find it hard to believe that 80% of the plants energy requirements are provided via methane from the digesters. Final effluent is disinfection by U/V treatment and discharged 3 kilometres out to sea from Mairangi Bay.
Back in the bus and heading to Whangarei WWTP. At this stage by popular demand a DJ is nominated for music selection for the rest of the trip. We meet up with Andy at the WWTP who proudly shows off his plant consisting of mechanical screens, primary clarifiers, trickling filters, anoxic/aeration basins, digesters, rotating disc filters and U/V. The Archimedean Screw Pump was a sight to behold. The final water is then discharged to a huge landscaped wetland.
Next stop is the Whangarei WTP to catch up with Steven. This plant is your typical sedimentation, filtration process with age issues which we can all relate to in our own areas. It was interesting to see some of the clarifiers empty, allowing us to better understand their layout and functions.
Right about this time the group senses some urgency from the Tour Leaders and everyone is corralled back in the bus and the trek continues. At this stage everyone in the group would have understood that some involvement relating to the Maori culture would be a given however, the extent of this interaction was an unknown. We arrive at Waipoua in the dark and after some detailed whispering commence the welcoming ritual. Not a soul in our group desired to offend this greeting, so everyone was on their best behaviour and listening intently to their life story as they accepted us into their family.
After a restful night sleep dreaming about little red headed people who apparently spirit you away if you stray from the path (Maori folklore) we all meet for breakfast. Jane then takes us to visit a tree. I was a bit of a sceptic relating to this, really? A tree? How special can that be? Don’t you love it when you’re proven wrong. Tane Mahuta is a 2000 year old Kauri tree. Its trunk girth is 14 metres and total height 52 metres, truly impressive and so important to the Maori culture.
After this Sandy and Snow organise to take us beach fishing after snapper? Is that possible? One thing that is brutally obvious by this stage is that time is different over in NZ which makes it hard to keep to a timetable. After this there was a ceremony and gift exchanging where George presented Sandy and Snow with a plaque designed by our own aboriginal people.
Early rise and packed this morning and after breakfast we say our official goodbyes to our Maori friends with everyone richer for the experience. As a group we can’t express the gratitude to Sandy, Snow, Jane and Family for providing us this with this opportunity.
Back on the road again and heading from the West Coast to the East Coast with everyone on board this time!! There has been a configuration change within the bus with Crocodile Dundee (Geoff) sitting up the front to help Damien with directions.
We meet up with Peter who showed us the Rawene WWTP (Lagoon and the smallest step screen ever built) and the WTP (In house Clarification/Filtration) and then head to Kaikohe WTP where we meet Jason. I think someone must have phoned ahead and warned Jason about our group because he certainly wasn’t taking any nonsense when he showed us his Clarification/membrane plant. A few members of our group walked away from this tour with their tails between their legs. Popular comment was that Jason had eyes in the back of his head.
Paihia WTP is our next destination which to our surprise is just upstream from the Paihia waterfalls, sorry Peter and Terry for sight seeing and making you wait. This plant is a Clarification and Pressure Filtration plant with a spectacular backdrop. We next catch the Ferry over to Russell to look at the WWTP with Chris which interestingly discharges the treated effluent back to the underground aquifers. Finally we make our way back to Paihia for our overnight stay.
Slower start today apart from George who looked very sprightly! We visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and tour the museum which is surprisingly enriching considering the groups state.
We head back to Auckland for the Conference however, we couldn’t resist stopping and visiting Sheepworld, really? Some members of the group thought this was a different sort of establishment and were surprised to find it wasn’t what they thought. We all attended the Chairman’s Dinner, no thanks to Damien and his astute aeroplane spotting whilst driving, and have a great night meeting our colleagues across the water.
Day 6 & 7
The WIOG conference takes up the next two days with technical papers and trade displays. The interaction and networking over the next two days was extraordinary, so thanks to our neighbours for making us feel welcome and congratulations to Elysia Butler for winning Best Paper.
Toured the Mangere WWTP in the morning. This plant is huge and treats an average inflow of 300,000 m3/day. To be honest the size and complexity of this plant was personally a little daunting. Fully recommend to anyone who has the opportunity to visit this complex to do so. The afternoon was assigned to sightseeing in Auckland and included the waterfront walk, thrill seeking rides (never again), casino, and the Sky Tower.
Travel home today and looking forward to some quiet time on the plane. Then the Goodbyes. It is amazing how attached you can get with a group of strangers in a short period of time. Special thanks to George (WIOA), Damien Lawson (Tour Guide and entrepreneur), Sonny, Snow, Jane and family, WIOG, John and Denise Clemens and all our NZ counterparts for going out of their way to make this trip so memorable.
Contributed by Brian Scobie from North East Water