Featherston’s wastewater options remain hidden

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Featherston’s selected long-term wastewater treatment options range from $ 30 million to $ 215 million, a recent report from Wellington Water states.

Hodder Farm in Featherston, where ground-based wastewater irrigation trials would be underway.
Photo: LDR / Jade Cvetkov

But the details of these options and the specific costs remain hidden, despite the elected members having asked the South Wairarapa District Council (SWDC) to release information.

Local Democracy Reports also requested that SWDC publish a December report on options and costs under the Local Government Official Meetings and Information Act [LGOIMA].

The report was presented only to board staff, not to elected members or the public.

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SWDC refused this request on the basis of “[maintaining] the effective conduct of public affairs through the free and frank expression of opinion by or between or to members or officers or employees of any local authority “.

Featherston community council member Claire Bleakley has now filed a motion asking the council to “provide the options and costs of options that had been presented by Wellington Water.”

The community council was due to meet Monday evening at 7:00 pm at Kiwi Hall.

The Featherston wastewater treatment process has been a long-winded business and has been going on for several years.

SWDC applied for a permit for upgrades to its Featherston wastewater operation in 2017.

In an effort to clean up Donald’s Creek and Lake Wairarapa, the council proposed to move gradually to dump the city’s UV-treated wastewater onto land rather than onto waterways.

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However, overwhelming public opposition to terrestrial irrigation of UV-treated wastewater led to a series of hearings, which were canceled three times.

In March 2020, the board shelved Featherston’s proposals and restarted with its new infrastructure partner, Wellington Water.

A long list of options came out for the engagement in late 2020, led by SWDC and Wellington Water.

Advisors received a shortlist of options and cost estimates in February 2021 via a note.

These were never made public.

A Wellington Water spokesperson said the options presented to the council in February 2021 were “all very expensive”.

They said the council had asked for more information on cheaper and consenting options.

In December 2021, after reviewing the shortlist and dealing with further inquiries from SWDC, Wellington Water submitted an amended shortlist to council staff.

Elected members did not see this information.

In his recent column on Featherston Phoenix, South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen said the council “[keeps] get proposals that cannot be presented as options to the public due to their extreme costs. “

“We also don’t know about the new government standards for sewage discharge, so we might settle for an option just to make it redundant before it’s built.”

The Featherston Wastewater Treatment Plant is currently operating with an extended expired consent from the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

The extension is expected to expire in 2023.

Wellington Water’s short-term solution maintains primary drain at Donald’s Creek and ground irrigation trials at Hodder Farm.

Bleakley has filed other motions for tonight’s meeting, including requesting that the Featherston Community Board “ask the council to write to Wellington Water to stop all effluent for shore testing.”

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It also called for viable tertiary cost-effective options to be considered.

Tertiary effluent treatment involves a series of additional steps after secondary treatment to further reduce organics, turbidity, nitrogen, phosphorus, metals and pathogens.

Most processes involve some kind of physicochemical treatment such as coagulation, filtration, adsorption of activated carbon of organic substances, reverse osmosis and additional disinfection.

Local Democracy Reporting is public interest journalism funded through NZ On Air


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