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Peter Seipp, managing director of Seipp Construction, contracted to future-proof the Ashburton wastewater system by replacing a small pipe that runs under the Ashburton River, said many councils waited until work like that was urgent, but Ashburton was ahead of its time in doing the work now and building in capacity for the future.
That showed respect for the community and the environment.
Mr Seipp spoke at a blessing ceremony on the south side of the river - and the work is now under way.
The $7m project began on Monday and will take about 14 months.
The work will affect sections of the Ashburton-Lake Hood cycle trails.
The project involves a 1100mm pipe, more than twice the size of the existing pipe, put under the river, and connecting to a new pump station to be built near the wastewater plant at Tinwald.
The pumping station will be as big as a three-storey building and be underground.
It will have four pumps big enough to shift all the water in the EA Networks Centre in about 15 minutes.
Council's service delivery group manager Neil McCann said the project would provide for Ashburton's growth and meet population needs.
"We're very pleased to be delivering this necessary upgrade. It will benefit residents now and in the future.''
Ashburton council project manager Shyamal Ram said the existing pipeline was put in in the 1970s and needed to be renewed.
Preparation work had taken months.
At its deepest part, the pipe would be 8m below ground level.
He said the pipe and pump station had a design life of 100 years.
The blessing was performed by Tewera King, of Arowhenua, and mayor Neil Brown sunk a spade into ground near where the pump station will be built to signal to start of the development.
Though the Ashburton/Hakatere River Trail on the northern side of the river would remain open for much of the project, minor closures were expected.
A section of the Ashburton-Lake Hood Trail (on the southern side) will be closed near the construction site at Boundary Road.
People will be directed to use a detour via Grahams Road and Grove Farm Road.