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Big stink over effluent plan

The settling ponds at the Featherston sewage treatment plant. PHOTO/FILE

Fears wind will send discharge into properties

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Residents neighbouring land that is earmarked for effluent discharge in Featherston say the district council is opting for a “third world” solution, and health and property values are at stake.

Many locals support South Wairarapa District Council’s attempts to clean up the waterways by using treated wastewater to irrigate land in Featherston.

But they warn the high water-table in the area and the town’s notorious wind gusts will cause problems.

Mark Lucock’s property boundary is just 34m away from the proposed irrigation sites at Longwood East Rd and Murphy’s Line.

“We’re on the worst side of the wind. The gales blast out of the hills through Featherston towards us.

“If any shit is going to move, it’s coming towards our house and we get our drinking water off the roof.”

The council are already irrigating treated wastewater to land in Greytown and Martinborough, and its Featherston consent was notified last week by the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

The consent and supporting documentation available on the regional council website is 700-odd pages long, and residents say the 20-day submission period is not enough time to wade through the papers and respond.

Mr Lucock said his mother-in-law owned a 8ha section behind his, also on the irrigation land boundary.

“She’s trying to sell it and there’s been no buyers. Every potential buyer has walked away once there’s mention of this scheme going in.”

He said Featherston’s “volatile weather” would mean many days in which irrigating to land could not go ahead.

The council has investigated alternative wastewater disposal methods, however, the council’s assets and operations manager Lawrence Stephenson told a public meeting last week that the current proposal was the “best practical option”.

It would clean up Donald’s Creek, and there would be strict guidelines in place to mitigate risks to properties neighbouring the irrigation sites.

Mr Stephenson told Featherston residents attending the wastewater meeting that there would be a 25m buffer zone between the irrigators and the sites’ boundaries.

There would be a 150m buffer zone from “existing dwellings”, a 50m buffer zone from bores, and a 20m buffer zone on either side of waterways.

The irrigators would automatically cut out when wind speeds reached 12metres per second, or 43.2kmh.

Mr Stephenson said the droplet size was large so it wouldn’t drift, and they would be dispersed at chest height to avoid bores and roofs.

Garrick Emms lives on Longwood East Rd and his property boundary is about 40 metres from where the wastewater will be sprayed.

He said he was 100 per cent behind getting wastewater out of the waterways, but “dead opposed” to the council’s current plan.

“We’re not being nimbys [not in my backyard], we’re not saying head in the ground stuff, we’re saying there’s a better way to do it.”

The council initially looked into a High Rate Treatment [HRT] option, which was dropped when the council purchased Hodder farm for irrigation in 2014.

Mr Emms said he and other residents preferred the HRT approach, which purifies the water to a standard high enough that if needed it could be discharged to water without negative effects.

“We would like a high-quality treatment plant.

“We know things have to be cleaned up and we can’t pump rubbish into the lake any longer, we have to clean up the lake.”

But he couldn’t understand why Featherston had to “have a third world option”.

Mr Emms, who is part of the council’s Water Race Users Group, was concerned the Longwood Water Race could become contaminated and said the high water-table made the proposed irrigation area unsuitable.

In Martinborough, wastewater is discharged to Pain Farm.

In Greytown, wastewater is being irrigated to land opposite Papawai Marae, directly behind the kaumatua flats, which residents opposed.

Council chief executive Paul Crimp said he had written to the regional council indicating that SWDC would support any application for an extension of time on public submissions.

At the moment people have until 4.30pm on June 14 to submit.


  1. Hmmm the consent documents actually state that spraying will stop only when the AVERAGE WIND SPEED reaches 12m/s or roughly 43kmph .(martinborough and greytown consents state spraying will stop when wind GUSTS of 43kpmh are reached.
    So I’m concerned about the 22kpm wind speed that you have reported. Is it a mistake on your part or are the council telling more lies

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