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Gasworks future unclear

The future of Masterton’s contaminated gasworks site hangs in the balance.
The council listed the Bentley St site for sale and tenders closed last month.
Heavy metals and dangerous hydrocarbons in the soil have left the site unusable for half a century.
Sustainable Wairarapa and Rangitane o Wairarapa made public presentations at Wednesday’s council meeting, proposing options for the site’s future.
Rangitane o Wairarapa Trust deputy chair Amber Craig said that indigenous solutions would be the future for Wairarapa.
She said Te Korou, Peneamine, Te Ropiha and Te Akau and others were the whanau who lived in the Bentley St/Pownall St area.
Craig said those whanau donated the land to the Masterton community to build a school, but by the 1910s, coal gas was manufactured there.
Remnant byproducts from coal gas production continue to pollute the soil today.
“We are aware that this is contaminated whenua [land], and we’ve actually had whanau who have become very mauiui [sick] from working in the gasworks back in the day,” Craig said.
She said MDC should sell the site to someone who would work towards healing the land.
The soil contains poisonous lead and arsenic, which poses a risk to Makakaweka stream, which runs through the site.
Masterton District Council [MDC] and Sustainable Wairarapa planted native plants along the stream banks 12 years ago, which have since grown into regenerating bush.
Speaking on behalf of Sustainable Wairarapa, Kirsten Browne proposed that the buyer could plant trees on the site.
NIWA recently projected that Masterton’s average temperature would increase by 1.25 degrees Celsius over the next 18 years.
Browne said tree coverage was the only known method to decrease outdoor urban temperatures.
Masterton currently has only 2 per cent urban tree coverage, well below the national target of 10 per cent, which lags behind Melbourne’s target of 40 per cent and the United States’ target of 50 per cent urban tree cover by 2040.
Sustainable Wairarapa recommended MDC begin planting trees in urban Masterton and proposed they consider planting as a potential use for the gasworks land.
After the presentations, the council discussed plans for the site in the public-excluded section of the meeting.
Previously MDC told the Times-Age they would consider the purchaser’s plans for addressing contamination issues when deciding which tender offer to accept.
David Hopman, MDC chief executive, said yesterday that the sale discussions were ongoing.

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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