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Why do we pay rates?

Toilet trouble in Masterton. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

Fed up residents without working toilets demand urgent wastewater fix

Masterton residents have had raw sewage flood on to their properties in heavy rain for years.

A Cockburn St resident said she and her child had to walk through sewage for two days to use the portaloo before the council came to move it out of the contaminated water.

Residents held a meeting on Wednesday to form a plan to hold Masterton District Council [MDC] accountable for the flooding that has regularly disabled showers, washing machines, sinks and toilets.

MDC gave residents portaloos but is yet to fix the pipes.

Residents have been charged full rates on their properties, despite not receiving essential infrastructure services.

One resident had a neighbour’s drain spill dirty paper and grey wastewater across their garage, down the side of their yard and into a farm paddock where sheep and horses drink the water.

Eight years ago, two households on a problem section of Colombo Rd were given portaloos by MDC.

Today, six out of the eight houses in the affected Colombo Rd stretch have portaloos, and the problem is spreading.

This year portaloos were also delivered to houses in Vogel Cr, Stout St, and Ballance St on the northwest side of town.

Development in housing has intensified in the area, but the infrastructure has not been improved to match it. For example, when Taranaki St was extended for development, the new sewers were built to flow into the already overburdened Colombo Rd, Cockburn St and Andrew St pipes.

One resident said a neighbour’s pipe was flowing into their yard outside their bedroom window.

Residents discussed their need for a collective action group because the council had failed to address individual complaints.

MDC collected over $30 million of rates in the 2020-2021 financial year, a portion of which was paid by Kuripuni residents who were without wastewater pipes.

When their toilets filled up to the seat, MDC provided portaloos, but a permanent solution was not offered to residents.

When it floods, it is up to individual households to apply for a portaloo, which is time-consuming.

A resident at the meeting suggested automatically delivering portaloos to affected properties through a council system when it floods.

Some residents at the meeting expressed a desire for a rates reimbursement for undelivered wastewater services.

Everybody at the meeting agreed to collate their horror stories, evidence, and images into a single document to present to MDC.

David Hopman, chief executive of MDC, said that stormwater overloads caused the flooding at the Homebush Wastewater Plant.

Stormwater overloads the plant, causing sewer lines to back up and then flood properties with a combination of sewage and stormwater.

MDC has received $3.88 million under the government’s Three Waters Better Off funding programme. Last week MDC signed off on using $2.25 million of that funding for sewer renewals to prevent overflows in the network.

Councillors Gary Caffell, Bex Johnson and Tim Nelson, wanted the whole $3.88 million spent on fixing the sewerage network but failed to win over a majority of councillors.

The residents at the meeting planned to arrange a meeting with all affected households, Hopman, and council contractors.

The aim of the meeting would be for residents to present their collated evidence and to demand from MDC an urgent remedy to the problem.

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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