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Councillors resist water project flush

A multimillion-dollar Carterton water project has been granted a stay of execution by elected members.

The Waingawa process water project was recommended to be scrapped by senior Carterton District Council [CDC] staff after its forecasted budget increased from $2.5 million to $2.77m, with the difference needing to be met by ratepayers.

But instead of cancelling the project, Carterton councillors voted unanimously on Wednesday to investigate the project further – including having further conversations with potential funders.

The project, which was announced last year, involves establishing a bore and additional water storage on land adjacent to the Waingawa industrial park in the Carterton district.

Intended to provide greater water security in an expanding business area, it was originally costed at $2.5 million.

Of this, $1.75 million was secured from the government’s Kānoa – Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit, with $500,000 from CDC, and $250,000 from Masterton District Council.

A report to Carterton’s Policy and Projects Committee said that since the project was endorsed in September last year, more information had become available “which has changed the risk profile of the project deliverables negatively”.

This included anticipated revenue being scaled back due to reduced raw water demand forecasts from wood processor JNL, the major water user in the industrial area.

A geotechnical report also indicated risks with drilling a bore on site due to the earthquake fault line, while moving the bore to an alternative site would result in further cost escalation.

In the public forum of Wednesday’s meeting, former Carterton Mayor Greg Lang spoke in favour of continuing the project.

He said such projects will “never get cheaper than today”.

He also said water security and resilience are “absolutely essential” if Waingawa is to reach its full potential as an industrial estate.

“It would be an absolute travesty to say ‘no’ thanks to Kānoa and return the hard-won $1.75m,” Lang said.

“It would also send the message that collaboration and local government in Wairarapa is well broken and we are not open for business.”

When councillors discussed the project’s future later in the meeting, CDC chief executive Geoff Hamilton said that rejecting Kānoa funding “is something you don’t do lightly” and shared concerns that the council may not be successful in future bids for government money on major projects.

Mayor Ron Mark agreed and suggested the best option was “pressing pause” while more information is sought on other funding options.

He said he will catch up with government ministers to “test the air and see what other opportunities might be available”. -NZLDR

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

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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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