Editorial: Once more into the spray fray

OPINION: 

The plan for treated Te Anau sewage to be piped 19km and sprayed on rural land by the airport at Manapouri has generated a storm - and for decorum's sake let's not try to identify the type of storm too exactly.

The dissent spreads beyond those Manapouri residents whose patch would be the recipient of Te Anau's fecund blessings.

The broader community is getting het up in ways, in some respects, even the more widely controversial, and successfully opposed, monorail scheme didn't provoke.

This time people are feeling assailed not by developers and distant forces but by more up-close-and-personal ones; their own neighbours and council.

Commissioners have been considering public submissions on the case put by the Southland District Council for resource consent and on Wednesday it reached the stage that commissioner Denis Nugent walked out on his own hearing, having failed to quieten John Hardcastle on issues that were outside the scope of that particular day's agenda. There's some support for Hardcastle because of the perhaps confused circumstances behind his frustrations at having been unheard on the earlier day when his points were relevant to the agenda.

Granted, during a fairly formal hearings process focus must be maintained and tolerances can extend only so far. But the trouble is that if you keep things too resolutely on-track, people are more likely to feel railroaded.

This impression is only enhanced by the occasional "what's the alternative?" comment from the scheme's defenders, given that Te Anau's waste has to go somewhere and simply cannot continue to go into the Upukerora River. Opponents have been looking into this issue themselves, though it's not the case that the burden of producing a better scheme (if one is required) should fall on them because the district council screwed up.

So has it? The three commissioners have rightly been seeking further details behind reassurances that the scheme would not present any meaningful health risk or environmental debasement. And as everyone is acutely aware, it's not just about how things hold up on a good day, but how robust the scheme would be in times of Fiordland-style heavy rain or a faultline quake.

Should consent finally be given, a legal challenge is entirely on the cards. So a quick resolution isn't.

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 - The Southland Times

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