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Wastewater options hazy

Hodder Farm in Featherston, where land-based wastewater irrigation trials would be under way. PHOTO/FILE

Shortlisted options for Featherston’s long-term wastewater treatment range from $30 million to $215m, a Wellington Water report states.

But the details of these options and specific costs remain under wraps, despite elected members making pleas for South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] to make public information.

Local Democracy Reporting has also requested that SWDC make public a December report on the options and costings under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act [LGOIMA].

The report was only presented to council staff, not elected members or the public.

SWDC refused the request on the grounds of “[maintaining] the effective conduct of public affairs through the free and frank expression of opinions by or between or to members or officers or employees of any local authority”.

Featherston Community Board member Claire Bleakley had now also filed a notice of motion asking the council to provide the options and costings they were presented by Wellington Water.

The community board was met last night at the Kiwi Hall.

Bleakley had put forward other motions for the meeting, including requesting that the Featherston Community Board “ask the council to write to Wellington Water to stop all effluent to land tests”.

She also asked that cost-effective tertiary options be considered.

Tertiary treatment of effluent involved additional steps after secondary treatment to further reduce organics, turbidity, nitrogen, phosphorus, metals, and pathogens.

Featherston’s wastewater treatment process had been going on for several years.

SWDC applied for a consent for upgrades to its Featherston wastewater operation in 2017.

In an effort to clean up Donald’s Creek and Lake Wairarapa, the council proposed to progressively discharge the town’s UV-treated wastewater to land rather than waterways.

However, overwhelming public opposition led to a series of hearings, which were cancelled three times.

In March 2020, the council canned the Featherston proposals and started again with its new infrastructure partner, Wellington Water.

Councillors received a shortlist of options and cost estimates in February 2021 via a memo.

These were never made public.

A Wellington Water spokesperson said the options were “all very expensive”.

In December 2021, Wellington Water presented a modified shortlist to council staff.

Elected members had not seen this information to date.

In his column in the Featherston Phoenix, South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen said the council “[keeps] getting proposals that cannot be presented as options to the public due to their extreme costs”.

“Additionally, we don’t know the Government’s new standards for wastewater discharge, so we could settle on an option only for it to be redundant before it’s built.”

Featherston’s wastewater treatment plant was operating on an extended expired consent from Greater Wellington Regional Council.

The extension was due to end in 2023.

Wellington Water’s short-term solution maintained primary discharge to Donald’s Creek and land-based irrigation trials at Hodder Farm. — NZLDR

  • Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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