Critics oppose further rate hikes

Ratepayers should not have to foot the bill to fix the city's wastewater treatment plant problems because they are already paying too much, advocacy groups say.

A report into the water quality of the Manawatu River, released this week, revealed that it is likely more money will need to be spent on upgrading the wastewater treatment plant to alleviate the damage it has caused to aquatic life. But the Palmerston North City Council is not yet able to say how hard it might hit ratepayers in the pocket.

Manawatu Ratepayers Association chairman Wayne Spencer said the council should be wary of bumping up rates and needed to look at where it could save money elsewhere.

"It's time to look at other services and what can be dropped. Rates can't just keep creeping up ad infinitum."

Mr Spencer said when times were tough councils had to pull back.

Manawatu Grey Power president Wendy Gadd said the council should have planned its spending better as a treatment plant upgrade should have been budgeted for a long time ago.

"Now it's going to cost a lot in a short time because they have left it to the last minute and that is going to hurt people who can least afford it," she said.

The council admitted this week the wastewater discharge from the Totara Rd treatment plant was causing an adverse effect on mayflies and the river.

A seven-month water monitoring programme was started last year after the council was told by the regional council the discharge was causing problems.

High levels of phosphorus downstream of the discharge were causing large amounts of algal growth.

Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor told the Manawatu Standard the council would not know how much any upgrades would cost until it had a clearer understanding of what needed to be done to sort the phosphorus problem out.

Mrs Gadd said spending money on infrastructure was more important than "new this and that, that we don't need". She said the council had known for a long time that money was needed.

"We all have to budget; so should they."

Mr Naylor said the council had enough money set aside in the short term to increase alum dosing at the plant to keep phosphorus levels down, but experts say that is not a feasible long-term option.

Massey water ecologist Dr Mike Joy said adding extra chemicals was a short-term remedy and a lot of money would be needed to sort out the issues.

He said it would be better to look harder at what was going into the plant, rather than trying to sort out what came out.

"If people look at buying phosphorus-free products, they won't have to spend more money on rates to get rid of it once it's at the plant."

Manawatu Standard