Chance to remove chlorine goes down the drain

District councillors have voted against chlorination being one of its ‘four big decisions’ for...
District councillors have voted against chlorination being one of its ‘four big decisions’ for the community in the Long Term Plan. Photo: Getty Images
Chlorination looks like it will stay in the Selwyn district’s water supply.

Selwyn district councillors have decided the pursuit of chlorination exemptions won’t be one of the ‘four big decisions’ for the community when it comes to how money will be spent in the 2024-34 Long Term Plan.

Councillors voted 7-3 at its workshop last week in favour of the move, effectively meaning they will not pursue chlorine exemptions.

Mayor Sam Broughton, Rolleston Ward councillor Sophie McInnes and Ellesmere Ward councillor Elizabeth Mundt were the only ones to support it remaining a big decision.

Springs Ward district councillors Grant Miller and Debra Hasson, Rolleston Ward councillors Nicole Reid and Phil Dean, Ellesmere Ward councillor Shane Epiha, and Malvern Ward councillors Bob Mugford and Lydia Gliddon did not want it to be a big decision. Deputy Mayor Malcolm Lyall was absent.

For the district council to seek up to 17 exemptions and carry out required upgrades, it would have cost about $82.6 million – the cost of upgrading the systems and adding increased monitoring to ensure the system remained safe.

The project would have increased rates by a further $231 per year for the foreseeable future, on top of the forecast 16 per cent rates rise.

“I’d have liked to see the chlorination issue as one of our big decisions as I’m keen that we get a clear view from our community on the matter. However, we encourage the public to feedback on all aspects of the plan, so no matter where the issue sits in the document, I expect to hear our community’s views on the subject,” Broughton said.

The big decisions heading to the community cover a new library and community facility in Leeston and an upgrade to Leeston Park, park-and-ride facilities in Lincoln and Rolleston, and a new indoor sports facility in Darfield.

Chlorine has been a contentious issue since it was forced upon the councils in 2021 by drinking water regulator Taumata Arowai.

In the 2021-31 LTP, the district council committed to getting a clear understanding of the cost and time it would take to remove chlorine.

During that process, it became apparent the removal would come at a significant cost, and supplies would still require intermittent chlorination.

Rolleston Ward councillor Nicole Reid said taking out the chlorine would be too risky in bigger supplies such as Rolleston.

“I think we are opening a big minefield that we can’t do anything about.

“This is literally the only place that I have lived that wasn’t chlorinated,” Reid said.

The district council will still put information into the public consultation as to why they chose not to pursue the exemptions.

Rakaia Huts gets exemption

Just as the council pulls the pin on chlorine exemptions, the Rakaia Huts has been granted one – but the removal of the chlorine is still a long way down the line, if at all.

On Thursday, the council became the first in the country to receive a residual disinfection exemption from water regulator Taumata Arowai to remove chlorine from a water supply.

The exemption comes with a set of criteria, which is the next step for the council to meet. Criteria includes installing smart meters that actively measure water flow, and additional water quality testing.

Rakaia Huts has about 85 permanent residents.

“Just because we may have been granted the exemption it doesn’t mean to say we are going to take up that opportunity,” council chief executive Sharon Mason said.

“Now we will work through the appropriate governance channels, which will then provide guidance and recommendations on possible next steps.”

The cost of required upgrades is about $217,000.

The council first applied for the exemption in September 2022. It was refused in April last year, after which it changed its application to meet the criteria set out by Taumata Arowai.