The Hodder Farm site proposed for irrigation of Featherston’s wastewater. PHOTO/FILE
Hearings on controversial plans to irrigate Featherston’s wastewater to land have been deferred for the third time, with South Wairarapa District Council given until November 1 to complete hearings most recently scheduled to start on May 27.
The latest extension comes after hearings were first due to be completed by March 18, and then June 7.
The council has applied to Greater Wellington Regional Council for resource consent to irrigate wastewater to land rather than Donald’s Creek.
The consent application hearing will be held before an independent panel of commissioners on behalf of GWRC.
Acting chief executive Jennie Mitchell said the council applied to postpone the hearing to allow time for further community engagement, and to allow time for GWRC’s Proposed Natural Resources Plan to be updated.
She said council had been advised that the wording in the proposed PNRP was unhelpful to councils trying to move towards reducing wastewater discharge to waterways.
“It makes sense to wait for the outcome of those decisions on the PNRP before the current application is determined,” she said.
“This will avoid unnecessary debate at a hearing over provisions that are likely to be different come August.”
Mitchell said the council wanted to get wastewater out of waterways “as soon as possible”.
“If we had gone ahead with the May hearing date, and the panel didn’t grant consent, then we would have had to appeal or repeat the process, taking up more time and money,” she said.
“We think that most submitters will be pleased by this extension as it allows more time for us to share information about the upgrade, and to listen to their concerns and suggestions.”
The council has land at Hodder Farm it wants to irrigate the wastewater to, but submitter Garrick Emms said it will permanently contaminate several bores, including his own.
He said the extension would only have value if there was genuine consultation and information-sharing.
“We want a collaborative process.
“If there are conditions included [on consultation] then we can support the decision. But if it is more of the same behind closed-door workshops then we have a problem.”
Emms said there are now 17 “experts” consulting on the issue at a cost of up to $1500 a day, with council introducing new information since the original 2017 application.
Most recently, an information session in Featherston attracted around 50 people, prompting several councillors at Wednesday’s meeting to call for another public session.
Cr Colin Olds wants the opportunity to “debate some of the issues again”.
“This isn’t Greytown, and it isn’t Martinborough [where wastewater is already irrigated to land].
“Featherston is very sensitive in terms of the Wairarapa moana.”