Residents and shopkeepers took to social media to complain about the smell wafting from the River Loop Reserve. The smell was likened to raw sewage, or as one resident suggested "like my old Auntie's long drop before it was connected to mains sewerage".
Complaints have been made to the Horowhenua District and Horizons Regional councils. Horowhenua District Council explained on its Facebook page that composted soil has been laid on the loop reserve, ahead of being seeded at the weekend.
There was no odour at all at the site or around the river itself but the smell was very evident in the township, and residents believe this affected business and some visitors' enjoyment of the area.
Karen Graves, who runs the Flax Gift Gallery on Main St, says the smell has been in the town since Monday, January 11. She could not keep the door of her shop open, despite the stifling heat, because the smell was unbearable. The bad odour was more evident on her side of the street than the other.
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"I think visitors are just coming into town for the essentials and don't wander around the shops because of the terrible smell. Some who came into town at the beginning of the week just have not come back."
Karen contacted Horowhenua District Council to emphasise how works like this affect business, particularly when they take place in the high season for visitors.
"I am extremely appreciative of all the work the council has put into Foxton over the past few years, but am disappointed they did not consider the impact putting smelly compost down would have on businesses during the busiest time for visitors."
Staff at Mrs Nubbs cafe opposite Flax Gift Gallery had also noticed the smell, and were understanding of the situation. They, too, acknowledged the work the council had put into upgrading Foxton township.
After being notified of the issue, Horizons Regional Council regulatory officers were on-site on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday last week. The smell had reduced considerably by Friday.
Horowhenua Alliance senior project manager Marty Craill agreed the odour was unpleasant and said it was the result of the large volume of soil containing organic material that was required on-site. This soil aided grass growth but caused the smell.
Mr Craill confirmed the site team had worked hard to mitigate the smell, including watering to keep the site damp and bringing forward the seeding programme. He said when the composted soil has been used in the past, the odour has dissipated within 48 hours. The issue with the Foxton site appears to be the sheer size of the area.
"We apologise for the annoyance and thank the people of Foxton for their understanding. The good news is we have perfect grass-growing conditions, and expect the seed to take well."
The work is part of the Foxton Futures project to improve the loop and Harbour Street Recreation Reserve. It is funded by $3.86 million from the Provincial Growth Fund.