Ohura residents have been urged to reach a strong consensus on how future water supplies will be delivered and funded if they want to have some control over their community water resource.
Ruapehu District Council chief executive Peter Till told a large turnout of residents last week that unless the community reached an agreement with the council, the issue of funding future water supplies would become a district-wide and annual planning issue.
The council has announced that the existing method of water supply is economically unsustainable.
It proposes to use the Special Consultative Procedure (SCP) provisions of the Local Government Act to hold a referendum among Ohura residents to lock in a decision on how future water will be provided and funded. A 75 per cent mandate is needed.
Locals turned out in force to challenge the council's costings of alternatives to phasing out Ohura's ageing water treatment plant.
However, Mr Till has already ruled out spreading the cost of installing an alternative water system throughout the Ruapehu district.
Long-time resident John Howard told the meeting he had received a petition signed by 66 Ohura residents (half the township's population) calling for a flat water rate.
Mr Till said the previous council ruled out a region-wide flat water rate in 2009 and he doubted whether the new council would support it now.
Council officers referred to a proposed multi-million dollar water scheme in Waimarino to supply Ohakune, Rangataua, Raetihi and vegetable growers. This could not be expected to be absorbed by the district's ratepayers.
However, Mr Howard said the cost of setting a targeted flat water rate across the district was "miniscule" when weighed against the adverse social, health, cultural and financial impacts on Ohura township.
The lowest increase would be $10 a year for Taumarunui and the highest would be $128 a year for Ohakune, while in National Park there would be an annual drop in water rates of $325.45 and in Ohura, $619.45.
Meeting its health and clean water obligations under the Resource Management, Local Government and Health Acts is a sensitive issue for the council.
In 2010 the RDC received a Drinking Water Assistance Programme grant of $619,353 to upgrade the Ohura water treatment plant. Residents challenged the council decision to close the plant.
The Waikato District Health Board is due to meet the community this month as part of an official assessment.
Residents appeared evenly divided on whether water tanks were the best option in a rural region where agricultural spraying was a regular event.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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