Angry Foxton residents turned out in force last night to let Palmerston North City Council know what it should do with its sewage and the message was clear - no more river discharge.
Foxton had its turn to ask questions of a consultation team from the Palmerston North City Council at a meeting at Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom, as it is required to consult with neighbouring downstream communities.
There were close to 200 people at the Foxton meeting, including iwi, Horowhenua District Councillors, and people from affected communities like Ōpiki and Waitarere Beach.
Everyone had a chance to ask questions following a presentation put forward by Palmerston North deputy mayor Tangi Utikere, Project Manager Melaina Voss and Transport and Infrastructure Manager Robert van Bentum.
Currently Palmerston North's wastewater is discharged into the Manawatu River, but resource consent to do so would run out by 2022.
It has been described as that city's biggest financial and environmental decision in a lifetime, as it could determine how its wastewater will be treated for the next 35 years.
The general consensus at the meeting, led by community group Save Our River Trust (Sort), was that there was to be no more river discharge.
Sort chairman Robin Hapi said the only acceptable option involved Palmerston North discharging their wastewater to land.
"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do the right thing," he said.
"The lack of information on each proposed option is also of concern to us, as is the apparent lack of consultation with downstream iwi."
Hapi said PNCC should adopt best practice rather than looking at it from a cost perspective.
Waitarere Beach man Bert Judd, 92, said he remembered swimming and catching whitebait well up the river years ago "and you can't even catch a cockabully today".
"I feel for the children of today. They may never see what we have seen in my lifetime," he said.
Justin Tamihana said he was concerned that as tangata whenua, members of his Ngati Raukawa iwi had not been consulted.
Another member of the room said if man could land on the moon, it should be able to solve its wastewater issues.
It was also voiced at the meeting that Palmerston North ratepayers, by nature, would vote for the cheapest option as there was a cost attached to each option in the form of a rate rise.
Meanwhile, PNCC has extended its submission deadline until July 10. More than 300 submissions have been received so far.
Consultation was to have ended at 5pm tonight (June 30), but has been extended until 5pm on Friday 10 July.
There were six options put forward for consultation early last month from an original list of 36 options, and there were concerns at the meeting that the community should have been engaged earlier in the process.
Chief infrastructure officer Tom Williams there was still a chance for people to have a say.
"We need to get as much feedback as possible, and we are aware some residents have not received consultation material in their letterboxes. That has been remedied, with most homes now having received consultation material over the past few days," he said.
Consultation material is online at naturecalls.nz and at all public libraries. People can also ring the council call centre to request a consultation guide and it will be hand-delivered.
New information will be added to naturecalls.nz to explain how the potential options were narrowed down from 36 to six.
Williams said many of the options didn't make it to the consultation stage due to the large costs, or because they wouldn't meet other public health, cultural, environmental or recreational standards.
"This information may help people understand how we narrowed down the options. We don't expect this additional information will sway people's views, but those who've already made submissions will be able to make a new submission if the information does impact their earlier thoughts," he said.
"We will be emailing those who've made submissions to let them know about the extra information."
Anyone who had already made a submission, and wanted to alter it, had to fill in a new submission form at naturecalls.nz.
Two additional drop-in sessions will be held on Saturday 4 July to allow people to talk to the project team one-on-one - one at Ashhurst Library from 10-11am, and the other at City Library from 11.30-12.30.
PNCC would release its findings from the consultation round in early August.
Then, later in the year, the consultation feedback will be presented to PNCC alongside technical reports focused on a range of environmental, social, economic and cultural factors.
Elected members would then choose which option to proceed with for a resource consent.