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Discharge debate dubbed ‘re-litigation’ of the past

A long-serving South Wairarapa councillor says discussions about wastewater discharge to gifted land in Martinborough are “a re-litigation” of the past.

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

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.

Legal advice from 2011 has also come to light, which told 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”.

Councillors agreed unanimously on Wednesday to ask SWDC chief executive Janice Smith for a report setting out the history behind Pain Farm being permitted to be used for wastewater disposal and to report on further legal advice regarding the use of the property for this purpose.

This report will be presented at the next full council meeting.

At the meeting, Martinborough Community Board member Mel Maynard said the designation that has been requested over the entire 85 hectares of land needs to be removed and that further consultation with the people of Martinborough is needed.

“This is Pain Farm we are talking about – everyone in Martinborough has an opinion on it.”

But councillor Colin Olds said he was “a little disappointed” because he was one of the councillors “sitting around the table at the time when this was debated, discussed, consulted on”.

“I guess to some extent I see this as a re-litigation of those days when this was heavily debated,” Olds said.

“As an existing councillor for a number of years, do we cast a lens over every decision that was made and every consent decision? I don’t know.”

Smith said the council needs to “clarify the information we have and get a legal opinion on where we stand”.

She noted the proposed commencement date for disposal to land of 42 per cent of Martinborough’s wastewater is 2030.

Full disposal would be in 2035.

“We have also taken the stance in the last couple of days to investigate the full designation of the site and whether that can be limited to the 53ha that is referenced in the consent,” Smith said.

“We are also taking steps to see if that could be amended through the Wairarapa Combined District Plan process.” -NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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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