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A Pain for SWDC: Legal advice warns against effluent plan

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] is seeking further advice on whether it can legally discharge effluent to gifted land in Martinborough.

Last year, the council requested that all 85 hectares of Pain Farm be designated for “waste disposal purposes” in the Wairarapa Combined District Plan.

However, the requested designation came as a shock to elected members at last week’s Martinborough Community Board meeting, despite the project being signalled in the council’s 35-year-consent, which was approved in 2016.

Now, legal advice from 2011 that tells the council that using a portion of Pain Farm to “dispose of human effluent would not be consistent with the purpose to which it was gifted to the council” has come to light. It further states SWDC would need to obtain a court order to discharge effluent to the land because “the purpose for which the council proposed to use a portion of the land is not consistent with the terms of the Will/Court order”.

It is not yet known if further legal advice has been received by the council since 2011.

The Pain Farm land was bequeathed to the former Martinborough Borough Council by George Pain in 1932 to be used as “a sports ground for the residents of Martinborough and as a playground for the children”.

SWDC owns the land as a trustee, and the terms of the trust are the terms contained in the Will of George Pain as varied by the provisions of a 1966 court order.

The court order approved the following scheme: “That the income of the trust lands should be used … in maintaining and improving the Borough’s parks, sports grounds, camping ground, swimming baths, providing, equipping and maintaining sports facilities and a children’s playground in such manner and in such proportion as the council shall from time to time decide.”

Additionally, the Local Government Act 2002 states that property vested in trusts “must be retained by the local authority for the purpose for which the property was vested in the local authority”.

The provisions require the approval of the Minister of Local Government to use the property for additional or different purposes.

The legal advice from 2011, released under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act [LGOIMA], states the council should consult the public as ‘landowner’ of Pain Farm on its proposal to change the use of the land.

“In our view, the council should obtain a court order before applying for resource consent for the proposal,” the legal advice states.

In his report to the council, which meets today, South Wairarapa Mayor Martin Connelly said he wanted to “reassure residents that council decisions are made in a considered and legal way”.

“In the case of the future use of Pain Farm, public doubts have been cast concerning various actions of council,” Connelly said.

“But the relevant history shows that there was considerable consultation at the time and general approval of the council’s plans.”

The mayor has asked for SWDC chief executive Janice Smith to present a report to the next council meeting setting out the history behind Pain Farm being permitted to be used for wastewater disposal and “reporting on the further legal advice that will be sought regarding the use of Pain Farm for this purpose”.

Connelly’s report also reassured the public that consultation occurred and that there was “widespread approval of the idea”.

“When the proposal went to a Resource Management hearing, there were no objections.”

Connelly said the council needs to “put the history of the consent out in the public arena to reassure people that this decision is long-standing and had widespread support at the time it was made”.

Today’s meeting will start at 10.30am in Martinborough and will be livestreamed via swdc.govt.nz. -NZLDR

LDR is local body journalism co-funded
by RNZ and NZ On Air.


  1. Day light robbery by SWDC if they can destroy gifted land for the community to be used as stated 💯 then it’s robbery. Councils are getting out of control they need CEOs to go. We don’t have a CEO in charge of government we have a PM elected. We do have MANAGERS that the party in power work with. Councils need to work in a similar way. Socialism communism and dictatorship ARE NOT IN A DEMOCRACY.

Comments are closed.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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