A $4.1 million farm has been bought by the Horowhenua District Council for discharge from the Shannon wastewater treatment plant.
However, an environmental group taking the council to the Environment Court over the plant is sticking with its legal action.
Horowhenua Mayor Brendan Duffy says the farm was bought with the intention of ensuring suitable land is available for the discharge of treated wastewater in the future. The purchase agreement is effective from May this year.
"The option to discharge all flows to land is by no means a fait accompli. It has not been pre-determined," Mr Duffy said.
"We genuinely want to hear which option the public supports and need to complete the consultation process before any decisions are made.
"But we are planning ahead and are ready with suitable land when, and if, the council and community decide on any type of discharge-to-land option."
At a minimum, the council is seeking to stop discharging direct to the Manawatu River during times of low flow. Discharging all treated sewage to land would require 60 hectares. The purchased land is 85ha.
The council has a four-year consent to discharge direct to the Manawatu River.
Water and Environmental Care Association spokeswoman Christina Paton said her group was sticking with its Environment Court appeal against that consent.
The land purchase was a step in the right direction but any discharge of treated wastewater into the river was unacceptable, she said.
"Putting any discharge into the Manawatu River is not an option."
Mrs Paton said there was evidence of pollution downstream from the Shannon wastewater plant at Foxton and Foxton Beach and even further down the coast towards Waitarere.
The more land and effluent storage required for the scheme, the greater the estimated capital and operating costs, Mr Duffy said.
"We all want the best outcome for the community but it's important to note that full land treatment comes at a cost.
"The best solution for the community may be a combined system."
Mr Duffy said several wastewater schemes needed upgrades in Horowhenua and making Shannon the first priority meant the council could access a $1.115m grant from the Ministry for the Environment.
The council is now ahead of its deadlines for gaining ministry funding, having identified and bought land before the target date of September 30.
It needs to lodge consents for the new scheme by December 1.
The dairy farm the council has bought is 1.6 kilometres northwest of Shannon railway station and a few hundred metres from Shannon's wastewater treatment plant.
The property is bounded to the north and west by the Manawatu River.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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