Central Hawke's Bay faces a $30 million question over how much - and how many - residents are willing to pay to dispose of a smelly problem.

A year ago the stink from the Waipukurau sewage ponds reached all the way to the town centre, 2km away.

Neighbours on Mount Herbert Rd said it was much worse.

"Foul, disgusting, horrendous," Linda Greer said at the time.

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And Emma Mason-Smith said the stink was in every room of her house. "It's horrific," she said.

One year on, the situation has improved thanks to the installation of deodorising sprays and more effective treatment systems.

"We haven't had smell at all," Greer said this week.

"Ever since they put the demisters in, we haven't really noticed any smell and it has been really good and quite bearable," Mason-Smith said.

But the fix was temporary and a comprehensive study of Central Hawke's Bay sewage found a whole new system was necessary, which CHB District Council chief executive, Monique Davidson said could cost about $30 million.

"We are taking advice from the experts about proven results," she said, "so that whenever we do make a decision about an investment, and we have designed and determined that preferred solution, we have confidence it is going to work and confidence that it is going to meet those outcomes that our community sought."

The split decision on how many residents should pay was where the issue got even stickier.

A $30 million solution equates to about $2000 per CHB resident, many resident outside of Waipukurau and already baulking at the prospect of paying for town sewerage they didn't use.

Should the $30m be apportioned to Waupukurau residential ratepayers alone, it would cost more than $10,000 each.

Meanwhile, the Hawke's Bay Regional Council has backed away from prosecuting the Central Hawke's Bay District Council for discharges to rivers.

"The regional council can see that we are genuinely working towards finding a solution," Davidson said.

"We are taking this very seriously. We know that we need to act with pace, but we also know we are not prepared to put a Band-Aid on this."

The old sewage system needing replacement was itself quite new and cost the Central Hawke's Bay District Council more than $8m, but it came with a warranty from the company which built it.

Davidson said a confidential agreement had been reached with the company over the matter.

A recommendation on which new system to pursue was due to council in April, next year, to be followed by community consultation.

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