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Big stink over effluent plan

A large Martinborough farm will be designated “for waste disposal purposes”, despite being gifted to the former council for use as a sports ground.

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] made the waste disposal request relating to all 85 hectares of Martinborough’s Pain Farm in the Wairarapa Combined District Plan [WCDP].

This would allow for the discharge of 93 million litres of effluent to the farm per year.

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”.

Despite the project being signalled in the council’s 35-year consent, which was approved in 2016, it came as a shock to elected members on Thursday night at Martinborough’s community board meeting.

Martinborough Community Board [MCB] member Mel Maynard was audibly upset as she discussed the matter with fellow elected members.

“They [SWDC] have asked for the designation in the WCDP to be changed from it being a farm to it being waste. The entire place.

“What they’ve said about Pain Farm is that they don’t need to consult on it because they own it.

“This never came to our table ever.” South Wairarapa councillor Pip Maynard confirmed it had not come before current elected members either but understood the designation was something discussed by SWDC “in the early 2000s”.

She said it was “a real worry” that the decision had not come back to the governance table.

Mel Maynard asked what the community board, “as kaitiaki [guardians] of Pain Farm, could do to stop the designation”.

SWDC partnerships and operations manager Stefan Corbett said he was not sure why such a designation would be made over the entire property and that he would need to check back.

“As you’re aware, the Pain Farm Estate is a multi-use property,” he said.

“We’ve got consents operating to do several different things on the property. One of them is the treatment of wastewater and one of them is the housing of the transfer station.

“I can understand why a designation would need to be made over the areas of the property where those activities are happening … but why it might need to be done over the whole property, that is a good question and I will get an answer for you.”

The designation document sent by SWDC for inclusion in the WCDP states the Martinborough site is approved for wastewater land disposal “by way of existing regional consent”.

It was signed by interim chief executive officer Paul Gardner last year.

“[Pain Farm] is a SWDC-owned site intended to be used for the irrigation of 42 per cent [93,200m3/year] of annual wastewater disposal from the existing Martinborough Wastewater Treatment Plant,” the document stated.

“Effluent will be piped to Pain Farm from the [wastewater treatment plant] via a pumping and distribution system.

“The discharge will be by way of spray irrigation equipment, such as a centre pivot.

“The land treatment area will be used to grow high nutrient uptake crops in a cut and carry operation.

“In the future, the site may include additional storage to contain all treated wastewater [other than in extreme weather events].”

Further submissions on the Wairarapa Combined District Plan will be notified and called for in early April and will close in early May.

The composition of the hearing panel, dates, and venues are still to be considered. -NZLDR

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


  1. First the land was gifted 🙌? Not for this purpose. Why can’t human waste be incinerated ? To much great farmland is being destroyed because of environmental issues? Climate issues? Greens issues?. There must be a better way to decontamination of waste.

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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