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Funding won’t help lingering water woes

Water is flushed from Martinborough’s water supply, during 2019’s E.coli scare. The project will not receive any funding through the Three Waters reforms stimulus package. PHOTO/FILE

 

MARCUS ANSELM

[email protected]

Lingering water woes such as Martinborough’s water safety or Featherston’s ongoing sewage consent will not be solved by the windfall South Wairarapa’s councillors are being asked to agree to tomorrow.

A staff report recommended South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] sign a Memorandum of Understanding [MoU] with the government on its Three Waters reforms.

Strict limitations on using the near-$3million of stimulus package from central government means the money is ringfenced away from projects already in the council’s pipeline.

For SWDC, these include the long-running Featherston wastewater consent process and the next steps in safeguarding Martinborough’s water after the 2019 E.coli scare.

This means any of the work remaining from the previous triennium would be funded from traditional sources, such as rates collection or borrowing.

Last week, Colin Crampton, the chief executive of Wellington Water, said the funding for signing the Three Waters reforms offered “a wonderful opportunity” to work on trials to limit the district’s estimated 55 per cent water loss.

Wellington Water manages water infrastructure for South Wairarapa District Council, and other districts across the capital region, but not its Wairarapa neighbours Carterton and Masterton.

The water loss problem is more likely to be addressed than the long-running issues detailed in SWDC’s 2020/21 plan, or the recently revealed rainwater storage initiative.

A vote in favour would land $2.84m in cash for water projects as part of a stimulus package.

Recent high-level negotiations led to a doubling of the original $1.42m on offer.

The national pool of $760m, which included set up costs for the Taumata Arowai regulator, also included a $29.9m pool for the Wellington region.

Three Waters money could also not be used on Carterton’s multi-million-dollar wastewater project, or change its scope, council chief executive officer Jane Davis said.

Carterton District Council [CDC] agreed to a $1.84m pay day last week through the government’s water reform package.

The council’s wastewater treatment plant was its main focus for the 2020/21 year.

It will be one of the district’s largest ever projects, with at least $6m dedicated to improving the sewage works.

“Nothing will change as we’re absolutely committed to completing that project,” she said.

Davis also said that the council will take lessons from the recent climate change strategy, joint-funded by SWDC, but only after the work was complete.

SWDC stated the strategy was another reason its plans for sewage upgrades in Featherston had been further delayed.

Both councils’ sewage methods were the major contributor to their greenhouse gas emissions, the report said.

Davis said CDC’s upgrade project “is being implemented in line with the very detailed consent conditions”.

“Our focus has been on minimising any discharge of treated wastewater from the Mangatarere Stream.

“Once constructed, we will look at all available options to operate the expanded treatment and disposal system to minimise any greenhouse gas emissions.”

SWDC’s councillors meet at Martinborough’s Waihinga Centre tomorrow at 3.30pm.

All council and committee meetings have been moved back to the centre to manage social distancing requirements.

-NZLDR

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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