A small community fighting a "sprawling industrial complex" in the foothills of the Waitakere Ranges is feeling betrayed at the decision by Watercare to cancel a public meeting at short notice.

The Auckland Council-owned water business announced yesterday it was postponing a planned meeting at Oratia District School tomorrow evening after acknowledging emotions are running high in Oratia over proposals to replace the Huia water treatment plant.

Watercare has identified two sites on the narrow, dead end Parker Rd in Oratia as possible locations for a new $300 million-plus water treatment plant to replace the 90-year-old Huia plant, which treats water from the dams in the Waitakere Ranges.

Last week, several hundred people attended a public meeting at the Oratia Settlers Hall organised by Watercare, which planned another meeting tomorrow.


Watercare service delivery manager Shayne Cunis said meetings at Oratia and Titirangi were well attended but a number of residents did not get a chance to ask questions and talk one-on-one with staff.

He said Watercare staff would be available at a day-long drop-in session at a location and date to be announced shortly.

But the decision to postpone the meeting has been greeted with anger in the community, which had been looking to develop a good working relationship with Watercare and its board.

Save Oratia spokesman Paul Goldsmith said the community feels betrayed by Watercare's withdraw from the meeting at 48 hours notice.

"Given that we are fighting for our homes and for the heritage of the Waitakere Ranges, last week's meeting was polite and respectful. At the end, Watercare officials gave their word that they would be back this week to answer many questions that remained. We feel they have broken our trust," said Goldsmith, who stands to lose his 5ha feijoa orchard.

Save Oratia said on its website the meeting would go ahead at the Oratia District School Hall tonight at 6.30pm.

Another resident, Andrew Treagust, said Watercare had cited no clear reason for pulling out of tomorrow's meeting and locals feel it is trying to intimidate the community, leaving families even more stressed about their uncertain future.

The residents of Oratia face the prospect of 12 or 18 properties being taken for one of two sites in Parker Rd covering 17ha and 15ha.

The company has two other possible sites - rebuilding on the current site at Huia, which would take 20 per cent of the city's water out for at least two years, or alongside the site at Huia. Both these sites are in a protected ecological zone with native bush.

Watercare has stressed the final plans and number of properties affected has still to be determined.

The new plant is planned to be more efficient and boost water treatment by up to 15 per cent. Along with a new pipeline to North Harbour it will help meet the growth needs of northwest Auckland.