People affected by Ōhakea's contaminated groundwater have faith in the government process but want tests for toxic compounds in their bodies, spokesman Andy Russell says.

He's the chairman of a committee representing about 300 people who live on or own land around the air force base where groundwater is contaminated with PFAS compounds from foam used for firefighting. His deer farm neighbours the base, and he lives 9km away.

Auckland company Shine Lawyers has suggested residents take a class action against the New Zealand Defence Force. Russell said he had met some of the lawyers, but the group was not interested.

Read more: Lawyer: More action needed on PFAS chemicals at Ōhakea Air Force Base
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"The committee is committed to a negotiated settlement of this issue. We will employ a lawyer at some point. That's where we are going. We are quite united in that."

One issue with the contamination is how the compounds might affect people exposed to them since birth - people drinking bore water or swimming in highly contaminated ponds.

Some in the group have met a MidCentral public health officer and would like the level of compounds in their bodies tested.

"We feel if they want to get tested it should be a simple process," Russell said.

The other issue could be an effect on land values. That hasn't been tested, because none of the affected land has been sold.

Deputy secretary for the Ministry for the Environment Claire Richardson is actively involved with the Ohakea committee. Photo / Supplied
Deputy secretary for the Ministry for the Environment Claire Richardson is actively involved with the Ohakea committee. Photo / Supplied

Russell has a lot of faith in the Government response. The lead agency is the Ministry for the Environment, and its deputy secretary, Claire Richardson, is working with the group. The Environment Minister has also visited.

"David Parker came and saw a very small group of us and I'm sure he will come back and front the community when the time arrives," Russell said.

Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie will be soon be moving to a property in the affected area. The drinking water to his house is unaffected, because the tank has not been topped up from a bore.


His property has had two tests so far - one of the bore water, and one of bore and tank water. Two more are planned, in May and August, looking at how different levels in the water table affect the level of compounds.

A community water scheme, for human and stock drinking water, has been suggested. Concrete tanks contaminated by bore water are being replaced with plastic tanks.

No one seems too worried about the compounds affecting animals or crops.

They have been found at very low levels in milk - so low they could be just background. PFAS compounds are used in the manufacture of everyday objects such as Goretex raingear and nonstick fry pans.

People who live close to the base have been asked not to consume too much local produce, as a precaution, and soil testing could be done later.

In December last year the New Zealand Defence Force made the contamination around Ōhakea public. Groundwater near other defence bases and airports is also being tested for the compounds.