The Horizons Region and Manawatu District councils want government to take more action on the contamination of groundwater by firefighting chemicals around Ohakea air base.

Government ministers were scheduled to meet on February 2 to work through the "cascading" issues, Health Minister David Parker said.

The contamination was announced in December, and since then 23 properties there have been sampled. Five have groundwater used for drinking that contains chemical levels that exceed drinking water guidelines.

One of those, currently unoccupied, belongs to Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie.


Manawatu Mayor Helen Worboys has talked to those affected. They told her the information they are getting is inconsistent and unclear.

"In addition to water use, residents have concerns about the future of their farms, and are asking for further testing of the soil. Those on untested neighbouring properties are also concerned," Ms Worboys said.

She was told of headaches, illness and animals performing poorly. She has talked to the Minister for the Environment about the matter.

Horizons Regional Council learned of the contamination in December, chief executive Michael McCartney said. It has provided technical information on ground and surface water, and will continue to do so.

He was concerned about the many unknowns, and urged government to sample more widely, even on the southern side of the Rangitikei River and in Sanson and Bulls. It should also ensure the health of the residents, he said.

He has rung the Defence Minister to raise concerns, and said Horizons is formally investigating the contamination. He can't comment on the investigation or its possible outcomes until it is over.

Officials from the councils, government and Air Force were to meet on February 2 to talk about what to do next.

"The councils are correct to be concerned for the interests of their ratepayers and people and to be making sure central government are moving through these issues as quickly as possible," Health Minister David Parker said.


The response to the issue had started with drinking water.

"Today I have asked for a draft list of those further 'cascading' issues for discussions with the mayors, including indications of dates and who is responsible.

"I want to have that information to farmers and others affected as soon as possible."