Cost of wastewater treatment option ‘astronomical’

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
A Gore District Council committee has balked at recommending an option for the upgrade of the district’s wastewater treatment that could cost between $65.2 million and $77 million.

At the council’s assets and infrastructure meeting on Tuesday councillors discussed a report prepared by Three Waters asset manager Matt Bayliss.

In the report, Mr Bayliss recommended an upgrade which included installing a biological nutrient removal plant in Gore and horizontal sub-surface wetlands be established for Gore and Mataura that would allow discharge into the Mataura River via the land.

"It is clear that horizontal sub-surface flow wetlands are the most suitable disposal option to ensure Hokonui rūnanga’s cultural expectations are met," Mr Bayliss said in the report.

At present the council had three resource consents which allowed the Mataura and Gore wastewater treatment plants to discharge water into the river.

The consents had expired but Environment Southland agreed to put the council’s consent application on hold until April 30 while a technical working group investigates land disposal options as the rūnanga no longer supported water being discharged straight into the river.

During the discussion of the report, Cr Paul McPhail said he could not back the plan.

"The cost is horrendous and I don’t think it is acceptable.

"I don’t think it’s where we can go at all."

He queried what was the difference between discharging the treated water straight into the river and it being filtered through the land where it would still end up in the river.

"I’m not talking culturally. I’m talking scientifically. I’m not talking spiritually. I’m talking scientifically."

Mr Bayliss replied filtering the water through the wetland would provide some treatment.

Cr McPhail said he understood the council had a consulting relationship with the rūnanga to work out the best outcome for everyone.

"The cost has got to be part of that outcome ’cause otherwise the rest of the ratepayers ... will say ‘were you looking at the greater good of the community’."

Cr Andy Fraser said the councillors had an obligation to the ratepayers to find an option that was affordable.

Cr Joe Stringer said it would be cheaper to pipe the wastewater to a processing plant in a larger city like Invercargill.

"It’s astronomical if every little township has to go through this cost and process and sucking up a lot of land and resources we otherwise don’t have."

Cr Stewart MacDonell said running the plant every year would add $2000 to each ratepayer’s bill.

"It’s just unaffordable in the current environment because our rate costs are going up."

Committee members agreed to table the report for the next council meeting and for councillors to discuss the issue at a governance level with the rūnanga.