The centre pivot irrigation debate flared up and was again rejected at a Masterton District Council meeting this week in the wake of a multimillion-dollar cost blowout on the Homebush sewage treatment scheme.
Rates are expected to rise a cumulative 19 per cent in the next two years after it was revealed last week that Beca Carter Hollings & Ferner underestimated the cost of the wastewater project by at least $5.1 million.
At Monday's meeting, before a gallery of about 50 spectators, Masterton District councillors moved to explore legal action against Beca and to look for savings in the $30 million project by an independent scrutiniser at the consultancy firm's expense.
Councillors also voted to accept a $9.1 million tender for border strip work, reaffirming it as the preferred option over a centre-pivot irrigation scheme that the council discarded last year.
The vote came at the protest of four councillors, David Holmes, Pip Hannon, Jonathan Hooker and Graham McClymont, who favoured re-examining a centre-pivot scheme in light of the cost blowout.
First-term councillors Doug Bracewell and Gary Caffell supported border strips and Judith Callaghan, who had previously supported centre pivots, changed her vote.
The feeling was the project was too far advanced to change irrigation schemes.
A sign that the debate was wearing on some councillors came from Cr Lyn Patterson who said she was amazed to hear the repeat of a debate that was decided in September.
"We can talk all blooming night about centre pivots, border dikes, or whatever but what we have is certainty over border strips, we know how much its going to cost. Why we are having this whole debate again just staggers me."
Mayor Garry Daniell said even given the added cost of the blowout, the capital cost and running cost of border strips and centre pivots was nearly the same at $13.8 million and $13.3 million, respectively. Deferring the work to reconsider centre pivots would cost more than $266,000 and more than $400,000 for a new resource consent.
Mr Daniell said the risk of switching to centre pivots was the same as last year; opposition of a centre pivot resource consent could drag the entire project on for years, cost millions, and pare back the length of the existing 25-year consent.
Councillor David Holmes, a Homebush resident who has been excluded from previous project meetings because of a perceived conflict of interest, said there was no reason to believe a new resource consent would be challenged by the public.
He said border strips were 1950s technology that was being replaced around the world and he disputed the cost comparisons of border strips and centre pivots.
He cited a price of $5.3 million for the capital cost of a centre pivot scheme, using 20ha more area, prepared by rural contractor Ordish and Stevens, which was significantly cheaper than the $9.1 million tender for border strips.
Mr Holmes suggested council was using an inflated estimate for centre pivots to make border strips look more cost-competitive.
Mrs Callaghan said while she voted for centre pivots in September she wasn't prepared to cost the ratepayer at least another $500,000 by switching irrigation methods.
"Sometimes in this world you have to make a decision you don't like making so I'm going to support us going ahead with this contract because I don't think we are going to get anywhere. We are only going to hear the same arguments rehashed again."