Pongaroa settlement. PHOTO/FILE

BECKIE WILSON
beckie.wilson@age.co.nz

For a rural town, water supply can sometimes be touch and go.

But for Pongaroa, water supply and quality has been a lottery lately with the town’s small treatment plant riddled with complications.

The town is set to get a new water $600,000 treatment plant which is almost complete, the Tararua District Council says.

But in the past six months, the town has had at least four boil water notices issued – some lasting for weeks – meaning water for consumption must be boiled before use.

On Friday, the council announced test results had confirmed E.coli in the water, and a pipe had burst.

While it is frustrating, a couple of the town’s businesses are used to the boil notices but are looking forward to a future with consistently clean water.

Pongaroa Café and General Store owner Gary Fursdon said the store was used to adapting once they were required to boil their water.

Mr Fursdon said living in a rural area always had its uncertainties, especially with water supply.

He understood the upgrade to the water treatment plant was “not too far away”.

The café resorted to buying water for cleaning the coffee machine and cooking, but would boil water for cleaning up, he said.

It was unusual the amount of times the boil notice had been enforced lately, “but we just adapt”, Mr Fursdon said.

“We just get on with it.”

The Pongaroa Hotel publican Gowan Greene had similar systems in place for when the water needed to be boiled.

The pub now always has extra water on hand.

It would be “fantastic” when the treatment plant was upgraded, she said.

Tararua District Council provided $197,375 funding to the project, and the Ministry of Health $393,125.

It was scheduled to be completed by the end of November last year. But complications with the land purchase, more information required around the tender combined with poor weather had extended the completion date.

The original water scheme was built in the 1980s and services the town’s population of about 250.

Its unique 96km long pipe system runs through farm land to reach the township.

The existing scheme supplies chlorinated water, treated at the primary source near Puketoi mountain range.

The difficult-to-access AVG tank sand filter is nearby, but is exposed to high winds and poor weather.

This filter system improves water quality, and reduces the amount of chlorination before the water reaches each household.

Restrictions would be lifted when there were three negative tests in a row.