The annual ratepayer bill for wastewater in Horowhenua could increase from $357 each to more than $1000 in the next 10 years, a public meeting in Shannon has been told.
The first of several meetings on wastewater to be held around the Horowhenua district was attended by more than 100 people in the Shannon Memorial Hall last night.
Vocal members of the audience cajoled council staff and consultants, and at times fellow audience members, as the options for discharging treated sewage from Shannon's wastewater treatment plant were discussed.
Council community assets manager Wally Potts said every ratepayer connected to a town wastewater system in the district paid the same fixed wastewater charge.
The council had approved $105 million in capital expenditure during the next 10 years to upgrade wastewater infrastructure in several Horowhenua towns, with Shannon the first cab off the rank.
"Your consents have been expired for a long time, it's quite over time that we address these issues, council admits this, we've got a lot of work to do."
Consultant Hamish Lowe presented the meeting with four options: discharging all treated wastewater directly into the Manawatu River, two options for discharging some material onto land and some into the river, and one option for full discharge onto land.
The council has already purchased a $4.1m farm near the wastewater treatment plant for discharge onto land.
The options had potential price tags ranging from $2.5m to $3.5m for full discharge to the river, to $7m to $12m for the fully land-based option.
Horowhenua Residents and Ratepayers Association spokesman Bryan Ten Have said the proposals were not worth the paper they were printed on.
The estimated costs of the options were too broad to be useful, he said. He questioned why the council had dragged its feet on wastewater when it had in recent years spent $11m on new council chambers, $7m on the Te Takere Library and proposed to spend $5m on the Te Awahou facility in Foxton.
Mr Potts said more-precise figures would be available for the two most popular options identified in the consultation now under way. The cost of the work required to provide more-precise estimates for all four options was prohibitive, he said.
Several councillors attended the meeting though Mayor Brendan Duffy and chief executive David Ward were away at a conference in Wellington.
As a result Mr Potts was in the firing line from several people in attendance over the council's record.
Perhaps unexpectedly, it was Water and Environmental Care Association secretary Christina Paton who came to Mr Potts' aid.
Weca is appealing to the Environment Court the council's four-year resource consent to discharge treated wastewater directly into the river.
Mrs Paton said at the hearing for that consent Mr Potts "stood up and he actually advocated for you people", she said.
Mr Potts said at the meeting that discharging to land was the "right thing to do" but "the difficulty is getting the political support", Mrs Paton said.
Mr Potts said that was not entirely true because the council had provided funding of $105m during the next 10 years for wastewater infrastructure.
- Manawatu Standard
Should Manawatu's earthquake-prone buildings be yellow-stickered?Related story: Council won't use earthquake-risk stickers