South Wairarapa District Council has pulled off a coup by succeeding in getting a 35-year consent, the maximum allowed by law, for discharging treated effluent to land.
This will mean no effluent will need to be flushed into the Ruamahanga River, historically regarded as one of the most polluted rivers in the North Island, or any other waterway.
The achievement has been described by South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples as "a huge win for everyone who cares about our environment".
Consents for both Martinborough and Greytown to divert treated wastewater from waterways to land were granted by Greater Wellington Regional Council on February 11.
SWDC are still waiting on the outcome of the Featherston wastewater application as it was lodged at a later date than the others after land became available in the town.
The council bought it in 2014 as it was a more cost-effective option than a costly upgrade to Featherston's treatment plant.
They had already purchased land in Greytown a year earlier.
As of now wastewater from Greytown, Martinborough and Featherston is treated in oxidation ponds built in the early 1970s, which cannot effectively remove nutrients.
"The consents that we have been granted will ensure that we can better manage our impact on the environment," said Mrs Staples.
"Land and crops can more effectively absorb the nitrates and phosphates."
When these nutrients are released into the waterways, algae and plankton multiply, contributing to toxic algal blooms.
"Instead of polluting our waterways we will be protecting them and at the same time being smarter about how we utilise this land," Mrs Staples said.
She said the land would be used for irrigation, gliding and providing access to rivers, with the added benefit of being able to sell crops produced on the land.
Wastewater will be discharged in Featherston to farm land adjacent to the settling ponds off Longwood Road West and in Greytown to land adjacent to the treatment plant on Pah Rd, Papawai.
In Martinborough the effluent will be distributed to 5.3ha of council owned land next to the treatment ponds in Dublin St, and then to Pain Farm.
Mrs Staples said the 35-year consent meant SWDC would not have to go through the costly consent process for many years.
"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."
Mrs Staples said she expected the proposed wastewater upgrade would take more than 30 years to complete, with a cost estimated to be about $29m.
The original budget of $17m had not included land purchases or the more expensive high rate treatment option for Featherston.
"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."
The cost would be spread to ratepayers over many years, with the existing estimate to be a rate of $1000 annually by 2043.
The current wastewater rate is $471 per annum.
Only those ratepayers who are connected to or have access to a community wastewater scheme will pay for the upgrade.
Mrs Staples said council would be investigating ways to speed up implementing the irrigation systems.
GWRC were "very complimentary" over the standard of the application made by SWDC, saying it was a comprehensive and quality document.
"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," said Mrs Staples.
Carterton District Council has an initial resource consent for five years, due to expire in 2017, which was granted to help remove treated effluent from the Mangatarere Stream and to irrigate it to land. This year they plan to apply for a longer content.
Masterton District Council in 2008 applied for a 35-year consent but the next year was granted a 25-year consent.
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