Saturday, December 4

The country’s largest groundwater discharge system receives the green light

The mayor of Palmerston North has berated some of his councilors for “getting political at the last minute” during a meeting today to decide how the city will manage its wastewater for the next 50 years.

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Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The Council approved the plans in a vote of 10 to 6, for what will be the country’s largest land-based wastewater discharge system: 760 hectares.

According to plans, 75 percent of the waste would go to land, and up to 25 percent to the Manawatū River.

Those who opposed the option were angry that there was no clearer mandate to divert waste from the river.

Deputy Mayor Aleisha Rutherford was one of them.

“I am incredibly disappointed that after four years of this I am voting against. Really, even at the beginning of today, I did not think I would be in this position.”

He said the plan was not ambitious enough.

“I really think people are going to find this decision unacceptable, and I’m not talking 50 years … I’m thinking a few years from now.

“We are agreeing for the next 50 years the daily discharge of wastewater into our river.”

Councilwoman Lorna Johnson agreed.

“There is a very vague indication that adaptive management is being used to increase deviation [away from the river] but without objectives and without specificity, we could be left in exactly the same situation in which we are discharging into the river every day. “

“That is not the aspiration of the community on how we would treat our river. I think there will be very disappointed people.”

“This is a long way from where I expected us to be … Honestly, I’m speechless, I can’t support this.”

But Mayor Grant Smith said the sewage would come out of the river.

“It seems incredible to me that this is being painted because we are not going to leave the river … people who do not even come to the meetings saying that we have no ambition.

“Absolute nonsense … it really bothers me at the last minute that we have people trying to get political profit out of this.

“This is definitely going to get out of the river, not in the time that some councilors want, but it will come.”

The council had previously approved an amendment to limit land grabbing to 760 hectares. Other suggested options should be taken up to 2000 ha.

For Councilwoman Karen Naylor, the 760 hectares was still too much and she voted against the option.

“I would have preferred less land to be used. I cannot support an option that is unaffordable and detrimental to the social fabric of our community.”

Landowners had previously expressed concern that the expropriated land would seriously affect the region’s productivity and threaten the region’s economic viability as a distribution center.

However, Councilmember Susan Baty said that productive land would be protected and there was “no way” that use of class one or two land could go through the consent process.

“We have not submitted a proposal to take class one and two floors over my corpse.”

The wastewater would be treated to the highest possible level, which is level four, which would almost make it a potable standard again.

He would now work through the Resource Management consent process and consult with affected landowners.

Consent must be submitted by the middle of next year.

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