Featherston sewage upgrade estimated at $30-215 million

Hodder Farm in Featherston, where trials of overland sewage irrigation will be undertaken.

supplied/JADE CVETKOV

Hodder Farm in Featherston, where trials of overland sewage irrigation will be undertaken.

Shortlisted options for Featherston’s long-term sewage treatment range from $30 million to $215 million, according to a recent Wellington Water report.

But details of those options and specific costs remain under wraps, although elected officials have advocated for the South Wairarapa District Council. [SWDC] to disseminate information.

Local Democracy Reporting also asked SWDC to release a December report on options and costs under the Official Local Government Information and Meetings Act.

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

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SWDC refused this request on the grounds of “[maintaining] the efficient conduct of public business through the free and frank expression of opinion by or between or for the members, officers or employees of any local authority”.

Featherston Community Council member Claire Bleakley tabled a notice of motion asking council to “provide the options and cost options presented to them by Wellington Water”.

The community council is due to meet tonight at 7 p.m. at Kiwi Hall.

Featherston’s wastewater treatment process is a time-consuming affair and has been going on for several years.

SWDC applied for consent to upgrade its Featherston wastewater operation in 2017.

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

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

THING

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said the government would create four new public water entities, with local councils taking non-financial stakes in four new public water entities.

In March 2020, the council canned Featherston’s proposals and started again with its new infrastructure partner, Wellington Water.

A long list of options was launched at the end of 2020, led by SWDC and Wellington Water.

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

These have never been made public.

A spokesman for Wellington Water said the options presented to the board in February 2021 were “all very expensive”.

They said the council had requested additional information about more affordable and acceptable options.

In December 2021, after reviewing the shortlist and responding to SWDC’s requests for additional information, Wellington Water presented an amended shortlist to council staff.

The elected officials have not seen this information.

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

“Also, we don’t know the government’s new standards for sewage disposal, so we might choose an option just to be redundant before it’s built.”

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

The extension is expected to end in 2023.

Wellington Water’s short-term solution maintains the primary spill in Donald’s Creek and overland irrigation trials at Hodder Farm.

Bleakley put forward other motions for tonight’s meeting, including asking that Featherston Community Council ‘request council write to Wellington Water to stop all onshore effluent testing’.

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

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

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

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