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Large turnout at sewerage open days

More than a hundred residents of Te Anau and Manapouri visited the Southland District Council’s Te Anau Wastewater Scheme Open Days over the weekend, taking the opportunity to air their concerns about the pipeline proposal.

Representatives from Southland District Council and engineering firm Montgomery Watson Harza (MWH) took questions – some heated – and ferried visitors over the site where a daily 4.5 million litres of treated wastewater is proposed to be dispersed.

MWH project manager Roger Oakley said the open days were a chance for people to be clear on what was being proposed, and to then make submissions.

“We’ve developed the proposal to the point that it’s clear what is planned, but not so far that it has a predetermined outcome,” he said.

Common concerns centred around groundwater runoff and odour from the dispersion, and Mr Oakley said it was a collaborative process and that they hoped to take all concerns under consideration.

“But hopefully feedback is not so onerous that we throw our hands up because it’s too difficult,” he said.

Southland District Council (SDC) water and waste assets manager Ian Evans said public information and submissions at this stage only related to what had been proposed, which did not include specific mitigation measures of environmental effects.

“We are fairly certain about the extent of groundwater runoff and odour dispersion,” he said. “Our priority is to get the application submitted.”

“The aim of the two days was to basically give people the facts, and based on that I believe it was pretty successful,” Mr Evans said.

But many residents questioned the efficacy of the scheme in the absence of detailed mitigation measures.

“I liken it to trying to take an aim at a moving target behind a blanket,” said Te Anau’s Phil Smith.

Manapouri resident of four years Vicky Burch said there was still not enough information.

“It’s very hard for someone to make an informed submission when there are so many things we don’t know, and when the environmental management plan hasn’t been completed,” she said.

The amount of money already spent with MWH was an indicator that the situation was far beyond the point of considering alternative solutions, Mrs Burch said.

“We could have explored gas production, forestry, or treating it to a higher level.”

Mrs Burch has spent the last three weeks of her summer holiday door-knocking residents and holiday makers in Manapouri, collecting more than 200 signatures against the scheme.

“Crib owners in Manapouri don’t know anything about this. A lot of them were just shocked,” she said.

Submissions close on February 14, after which the proposal will be taken by Mr Evans before a joint hearing of SDC and Environment Southland.

SDC will decide whether to reclassify the land for dispersion, with Environment Southland deciding on the proposal itself.

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