Independent Hearings Commissioners Grant Waste Water Consents to SWDC – 1 March 2016

The Commissioners appointed by Greater Wellington Regional Council to hear the consent applications for the distribution of treated wastewater have granted South Wairarapa District Council (SWDC) a 35 year consent (the maximum allowable) for both the Martinborough and Greytown.

The independent Commissioners were very complimentary about the standard of the application to the Greater Wellington Regional Council, saying the SWDC’s application and expert evidence were of a high level of comprehensiveness and quality and that their approach was responsible and commendable.

In their report they went on to say that under section 36A of the Resource Management Act, while there was no obligation for SWDC to undertake consultation for the resource consent applications, SWDC completed a very comprehensive consultation process with key stakeholders, the SWDC Māori Standing Committee, SWDC Wastewater Combined Steering Committee and the wider community. The rigour of this process was reflected in the fact that somewhat unusually for a Waste Water Treatment plant application, none of the submitters expressed concerns regarding a lack of consultation.

SWDC has been consulting with representatives of Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Rangitane o Wairarapa, Wairarapa Public Health, Department of Conservation, Fish and Game, Greater Wellington Regional Council and community boards since 2008 to find a solution to treated wastewater being discharged into local rivers and streams.

Wastewater from Greytown, Martinborough and Featherston is currently treated in oxidation pond systems which were built in the early 1970s.

The current systems cannot effectively remove nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. When these nutrients are released into the waterways, algae and plankton can proliferate, contributing to algal blooms which are possibly toxic to humans and fish.

After lengthy consultation with these stakeholders, in 2015 SWDC applied for 35 year consent to divert this treated wastewater from our water ways to irrigate land instead, which was granted on 11 February 2016.

SWDC Mayor Adrienne Staples says the granting of the consents is a huge win for everyone who cares about our environment.

“The consents that we have been granted will ensure that we can better manage our impact on the environment. Land and crops can more effectively absorb the nitrates and phosphates, with the added benefit of being able to sell crops produced. Instead of polluting our waterways we will be protecting them and at the same time being smarter about how we utilise this land. We are using it for more than one purpose – cropping, irrigation, gliding and providing access to rivers.”

“The 35 year long term consent means we don’t have to go through this costly consent process again.”

“We’ve worked very hard to get to this point. Our Council is one of the few local authorities in the country that can say it has the capability to distribute all treated wastewater to land which is a positive step forward for our environment.”

“Council has purchased land in Featherston and Greytown adjacent to the treatment plants, and has land available in Martinborough. By securing this land early in the process, the risk of cost escalation is significantly reduced and now is limited to the irrigation infrastructure and implementation costs.”

“The original plan and policy set in 2008 did not include land purchase or the more expensive high rate treatment option for Featherston, hence the original $17M budget. The earlier plan had assumed we would lease the land which is an operational cost; instead we have purchased it which is a capital cost and cheaper in the long term. By doing this we have the most cost effective, environmentally sustainable solution – as leased land can always be sold and then the investment in the wastewater upgrade would have been in jeopardy.”

“It is expected that the proposed wastewater upgrade will take more than 30 years to complete. The total cost is estimated at around $29M.

Council will spread the cost to ratepayers in small increments over many years, so the upgrade is affordable to the limited number of wastewater ratepayers funding the three schemes.

Current estimates have indicated that the wastewater rate will be $1,000.00 per annum by 2043 (current waste water rates are $471.00 per annum). Only those ratepayers who are connected to or have access to a community wastewater scheme will pay for the upgrade.

“Now that we know the consent term and conditions we are preparing to deliver against these consents. We’ll be investigating ways we can accelerate the implementation of the irrigation systems, as one of the key messages from the submitters was that the time allocated by us to implement the irrigation was too long. We’ll also be investigating ways we can achieve a reduction in the estimated costs.”

“We are still waiting on the outcome of the Featherston wastewater application, due to be lodged in early April 2016. The Featherston application had been lodged with the Greater Wellington Regional Council and was due to be considered ahead of Martinborough and Greytown. However when land became available in Featherston, Council purchased this land as it was a more cost effective option than the planned high rate treatment plant outlined in the application. Because of this the Featherston application had to be re-worked and was withdrawn temporarily.”

“I’m very proud of the South Wairarapa for showing the leadership and vision needed to ensure that we can protect our waterways, not only for you and I now, but our future generations”, says Mayor Staples.


Wastewater includes sewage from toilets, hand basins, water from washing machines, sinks, the shower & bath and trade wastes.

South Wairarapa District Council’s mission is to work with and for the South Wairarapa communities to affect the best possible social and economic outcomes which are based on valuing and respecting the people, the land and the resources.

The South Wairarapa District Council is one of three local authorities operating in the Wairarapa. South Wairarapa follows the coastline from the western end of Palliser Bay to Honeycomb Rock east of Martinborough. The western boundary follows the main divide of the Rimutaka and Tararua Ranges to Mount Hector, from which the boundary runs south east across the Wairarapa plain to the coast

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