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Septic tank discharges

Septic tanks contribute to nutrients entering the lakes.

On-Site Effluent Treatment Regional Plan

The On-Site Effluent Treatment Regional Plan 2006 deals with the effects of domestic waste water on water quality in the Bay of Plenty, including the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes.  On-site effluent treatment systems (OSET) include septic tanks and associated soakage fields, and advanced aerobic systems.

The Regional Council notified Proposed Plan Change 2 (Maintenance Zones) to the On-Site Effluent Treatment Plan on 27 November 2012, to update parts of the plan relating to how your on-site wastewater is dealt with and the effects on this on water quality.  31 submissions and 8 further submissions were received and hearings have now been scheduled for 13th and 14th June 2013.

If you have an existing on-site treatment system these changes could affect you.  

That means if your property is less than 2ha and located within the Lake Rotorua, Rotoiti, Ōkaro or Ōkāreka Catchments or within 200m of ANY Rotorua Lakes you will be required by 1 December 2013 to either

  1. upgrade your existing septic tank system to an Aerated Wastewater Treatment System with Nutrient Removal capabilities.


  1. apply for a resource consent for your existing system and potentially pay a financial contribution to mitigate the effects of Nutrients.

Click here for to read the Frequently Asked Questions.

Maintenance Zones

A Maintenance Zone is an area where there are special requirements for maintaining your on-site effluent treatment systems.  This is part of the Regional Council’s Proposed Plan Change 2 (Maintenance Zones) to update the On-Site Effluent Treatment plan to better protect water quality in the region.  In the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes it is to reduce the level of nutrients entering the lakes.

The following Rotorua Lakes communities are identified as being in Maintenance Zones. The dates show when each area will need to either upgrade existing septic tanks or apply for resource consent.

Maintenance Zone

Date of Expiry

Gisborne Point

1 December 2014


1 December 2014


1 December 2014


1 December 2015

There are some exceptions to this, including if your community is due to be connected to a reticulated sewerage scheme,

Outside of Maintenance Zones

If your property is outside a Maintenance Zone, is smaller than 2 hectares and is within one of the following catchments then you will need to upgrade your OSET system by the following dates:



Rotoiti, Okaro, Rotorua & Okareka

1 December 2013


1 December 2014

Mamaku Township

1 December 2017

Properties larger than 2 hectares, within the Rotorua Lakes catchments, fall under the Regional Water and Land Plan (RWLP). If a property has been benchmarked to include on-site effluent discharge from a dwelling under the RWLP, you will not be required to manage the nutrient component of your on-site effluent system under the OSET Plan.

Reticulation Zones

Rotorua District Council is to provide sewerage reticulation to a number of lakeside communities. The Regional Council has included these areas as Reticulation Zones in the Proposed Plan Change 2. When reticulation is provided to your community you must connect to it. Until any reticulation occurs, you need to maintain your septic tank.