Palmerston North City Council has all but flushed an option to discharge its sewage completely to land, leaving Manawatū River communities downstream feeling snubbed again.
Foxton and Foxton Beach residents had given a clear message at a public meeting in Foxton last year - no more river discharge - and that land-based disposal was preferred.
PNCC has to come up with a new plan for their sewage and was aiming to have a resource consent application and a disposal method sorted by mid-2022.
Its representatives met with more than 200 people from the Foxton community last year - iwi, local body politicians, swimmers, and river users - as part of a consultation drive called Nature Calls.
After hearing from all stakeholders the message was clear - no more river discharge.
Despite that, an option for complete land-based sewage disposal was missing among a new refined list of options released for public consultation this week.
- Option One: Discharge to Manawatū River via wetland or land passage.
- Option Two: Hybrid discharge between land (55 per cent) and Manawatū River (45 per cent).
- Option Three: Discharge to ocean.
News that a complete land-based disposal option was not on the table has angered Foxton Beach resident Christina Paton, a long-time opponent of river discharge.
"We are being treated with contempt. We will not accept this," she said.
Paton was also critical of a consultation process that came with price tags, rather than concentrating on what was best for the environment.
"I don't think they are capable of dealing with this issue in an environmentally sound way and for that reason shouldn't be exercising an opinion," she said.
The latest Nature Calls consultation document did acknowledge that downstream users were opposed to continued river discharge.
"We know many members of our community and our neighbours in Horowhenua do not want treated wastewater in the Manawatū River," it said.
"People may refrain from recreational activities in the river as a result.
"The discharge of even highly treated wastewater could negatively impact the mauri (life force) of the river and impact the mana of iwi, who are kaitiaki (guardians) of the river.
"Achieving ever-increasing freshwater standards will be complex, but we do believe we have the right technology."
The current resource consent application was for the next 35 years and PNCC said it had finalised the best "practicable" options.
The area needed for land-based discharge had been estimated as needing to be larger than Palmerston North itself.
Palmerston North City Council gave an explanation for why it was not continuing to explore land-based disposal options in a media release this week.
"The discharge of treated wastewater completely to land is looking less feasible due to the large land area needed and the potential effects this option could have on community, individuals and activities already occurring in the region – eg, farming.
"The land required is bigger than the city's urban boundary and to acquire that level of land would be complex, and would also take away land for housing or agricultural purposes."
For those communities downstream, history was repeating itself. The last time PNCC had to apply for resource consent for discharge of its sewage was more than 20 years ago, and it embarked on a consultation drive then, called Wastewater 2006.
Locals would remember a packed Foxton Memorial Hall, and being shown two bottles by representatives of PNCC, one bottle less murky than the other, to illustrate the difference with improved sewage treatment methods.
Chants of "drink it, drink it" rang out around the hall.
The option for land-based disposal then was by far the most expensive of those put forward at the time, but with the benefit of hindsight it was much less than the estimated costs put forward for land-based disposal today.
The current period for submissions ends at 5pm on Sunday, May 9.