Board rejects $17m treatment plan

JESSICA MADDOCK
Last updated 05:00 11/12/2012

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The Cromwell Community Board has ruled out spending $17 million on wastewater treatment in favour of a less costly option.

Otago Regional Council consent for Cromwell's 35-year old wastewater scheme - where the fluids are treated by sunlight and waves in a seven-hectare pond and disposed of in the Kawarau River, while the solids remain in the pond - expires at the end of next year and a higher level of treatment is needed to meet modern standards. Earlier this year the board narrowed nine options down to two.

Capital works manager Peter Greenwood told members yesterday that it was likely option one would be granted resource consent, but it would cost $16.7 million plus operating costs of $1.3m a year. Rates would leap $543 during the first 12 months and more in following years.

He was not as confident option two would be approved. It would cost $9m with an annual operating cost of nearly $600,000. Rates would initially rise $253, but the increase would grow during subsequent years.

Mr Greenwood asked the board to agree on the level of treatment it was prepared to fund. Central Otago District Council staff needed this information to begin the resource consent process and to research what systems were available within the budget. The actual design of the system and the location of infrastructure would be considered later.

The board strongly supported the cheaper option with some members saying the fact it would be staged, with higher treatment standards introduced periodically, meant the board could consider new technology as it was developed.

Option two means wastewater would be treated to a higher standard. The fluids would continue to be released into the Kawarau River while the solids were disposed of either at the existing ponds on Richards Beach Rd or at a site used for the disposal of wastewater solids from throughout the district.

The council's water services manager, Russell Bond, advised members paying more for an asset upfront may mean fewer costs during its 35-year life span.

But member Helen Hucklebridge said option one would have a major and ongoing effect on ratepayers. "I don't think people can afford option one. I don't think there is that money in people's pockets."

Another member, Nigel McKinlay, agreed the board need to rein in the cost. "I really think option one would place this community in a position that its expenditure on other activities would disappear."

The board had sought public feedback on the two options. Of the 115 responses received, 61 supported the cheaper option two, 38 were in favour of option one and 16 were undecided.

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Members of the public will have the opportunity to lodge submissions on the system the board ultimately selects, when the resource consent application is notified by the regional council.

- The Southland Times

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