It stank. It made people sick. It splattered houses. Sometimes, it was so bad a grader was needed to scrape the sands of East End and Fitzroy beaches clean of human waste.
But the 1980 decision to stop pumping New Plymouth's sewage out to sea and treat it on land was one of the most contentious in the city's history. It would cost too much. It wasn't the right time. There were better things to spend money on.
It took decades of politicking and debate before the country's youngest mayor, 32-year-old David Lean, finally won the battle for the $18.2 million New Plymouth Waste Water Treatment Plant.
Now held up as one of the city's proudest moments and a monument to its forward-thinking citizens, it's worth remembering it made it off the drawing board and into reality by just one vote.
Despite being at opposite ends of the human endeavour, the difficult birth of Mr Lean's Carrousel plant is not unlike that of the contentious $10m Len Lye Centre, which begins its own journey off the blueprints in February.
To get to that stage has also taken decades of debate and division. On one side those who champion the artist and see a value to the community in celebrating his work. On the other side those who decry it as an expensive aspiration of an elitist group the community cannot afford to indulge.
It's an argument older than any of its protagonists.
"When the people had the courage to develop Pukekura Park in 1879, it was all written in quill," says the now retired Mr Lean at the kitchen table of his family home.
"But it was the same debate. The time is not right, we have other priorities, the land would be better used for something else.
"A hundred years down the track the attitude for trying something with extra cost hasn't changed.
"Conversely, when something is in place, you try and take it off the people who opposed it. You won't get it."
He might be right. A list of the projects born out of the most passionate and heated debate over the last 30 years is largely the same as another list of Taranaki's most valued assets.
There's the $4.2m aquatic centre of 1993 that nobody wanted, the ridiculed $300,000 Wind Wand in 1999, New Plymouth's $22m Puke Ariki museum and library in 2003 and Hawera's $21.5m sport and recreation Hub development in 2010.
A Taranaki Daily News readers poll would appear to indicate that while opposition to projects may have been fierce at the time, it is usually a minority making all the noise, democracy allowing their voice to be heard.
Massey University planning professor Christine Cheyne puts the difficult development pattern down to heritage and what it has done to the Kiwi psyche.
"I think generally there is a view that in New Zealand we have a scepticism about the state being involved in things and we want to keep taxes and rates down. It's that legacy of our neo-liberal heritage - private sector good, public sector bad," she says.
For the last 60 years the local government sector has been growing, the post-war boom allowing it to move along from dealing largely with property issues and address the diversity in their communities.
First came the sports grounds and recreation facilities and more recently involvement in arts and cultural infrastructure such as museums, galleries and libraries. Both of which are increasingly recognised as helping stimulate and nurture a vibrant community, which itself is part of developing and maintaining a vibrant economy, the professor says.
"This is widely known within local government, within business and marketing, tourism.
"But what you will find, in some sectors of the community, are concerns about what it is doing to our rates," Dr Cheyne says.
"People are going to get nervous about the cost of facilities if you don't have population growth, or a healthy, strong economy. You will get this sort of opposition and it's a very appealing message."
It is a message rates campaigner Len Houwers took to the community earlier this year during hearings into the New Plymouth District Council's 2012-2022 Long Term Plan.
His petition asking for council to concentrate on "core services" and cap rates rises at three per cent collected a staggering 5700 signatures.
"It's twisted logic to think people don't know what they want but will love it once it's built," says Mr Houwers, who counts Puke Ariki, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and the Len Lye Centre as "indulgences".
"Once it's there it's there. What else can I do but get on with it."
However, the council doesn't always get it wrong. The Coastal Walkway and even the controversial Wind Wand are public assets that can be enjoyed by all and have a real net benefit to the community, he says.
And while the Len Lye Centre and the proposed $28m TSB Stadium redevelopment will also have benefits, he says the council has not adequately answered if it will be worth the ongoing costs ratepayers will forever be committed to meet.
Such a calculation was made for Hawera's once controversial Hub development. First proposed as a $33m brand-new bells and whistles facility, community concerns saw it scaled back to a $21.5m sporting, recreational and events venue residents are both satisfied with and deeply proud of.
"There is always an element that don't want to do anything, that don't want to do anything the council wants to do," says South Taranaki Mayor Ross Dunlop.
"You have to try and sift out those people. Then there are those groups of people that say ‘yes we could support it if we were satisfied it can achieve and provide what the community needs'. Once their concerns are satisfied they will often come on board."
"Now we have this centre and when you take visitors there and they say ‘what an amazing place. How did a small district achieve something like this?' "
It is a question asked in New Plymouth almost daily by the thousands of users of the $14.5m coastal walkway - the popular piece of infrastructure that has literally turned the city around to embrace the sea.
Opposition to the popular path has been almost non-existent, its adoption as a city treasure taking place even before its construction. And though it took a bit longer for the Carrousel plant to reach such hallowed status, there is little argument that both projects have helped build civic pride and have given New Plymouth the confidence to start shrugging off its "provincial backwater" insecurities.
"Because it's exactly the opposite," says the contagiously positive former mayor Peter Tennent, whose silken-ear attitude ruled the council table for three "golden" terms to 2010.
"The very strong feeling I get is folk look at Taranaki and say ‘wow, you guys are going for it. How can we make things happen like you?' "
To Mr Tennent Taranaki's often vehement opposition to change is not unique to the province and provides nothing but an opportunity to improve it anyway.
"I am never concerned about opposition. What we get is better for it," he says.
"If every time an idea comes up and there is no debate, no contention, what a boring place we would be."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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