Residents voting on water scheme's future

Residents on the small rural water supply at Winchmore near Ashburton are voting on the future of the scheme.

The binding referendum is part of the process required to close a community water scheme.

The supply serves a population of approximately 48 people, with 22 properties connected. The proposal to close the scheme was initiated by a request from residents served by the scheme.

In 2011, representatives of property owners on the supply asked the Ashburton District Council to consider transferring ownership and operation of the supply to residents. This was in response to concern over the affordability and viability of the supply.

In June 2012, after further investigations by property owners into private operation of the supply, property owners recommended that the council consider closing the supply instead.

An informal survey was carried out in April 2013 which found 78% of respondents in favour of closure.

Of those who responded, 72% were already using, or had access to, alternative sources of water. As a result of this survey, the process to close the scheme was started. Voting papers went out to eligible residents last month and must be returned by noon on Thursday, August 14.

The results will be known on August 20.

Included with the voting papers was a summary of the medical officer of health's recommendations.

The medical officer recommended that the council ensure all households have access to potable water prior to the closure of the scheme, that it advise residents on E. coli monitoring, provide information on construction of bore heads and location of bores and on the design and installation of rainwater tanks.

It was also recommended that council advise residents who would be using ground water to test for nitrate and make education material available on the nitrate communication plan developed by Community and Public Health in conjunction with Environment Canterbury which targets at-risk people such as pregnant women or bottle-fed babies under the age of six months.

If 75% or more of votes cast are in favour of the closure, the Winchmore water supply would close from noon on November 14.

A polling booth is open during normal office hours until Thursday, August 14 at the council office.

- by Maureen Bishop