A multi-million dollar upgrade to Marton's wastewater treatment plant has been endorsed by councillors.

The plan, which includes a second anaerobic pond, new storage tanks and community involvement in the process, was discussed by Rangitikei District Council's assets and infrastructure committee last week.

A contributor to the current plant's failure was leachate (landfill run-off), which was trucked to the treatment plant from Bonny Glen landfill.

The landfill's owners are now working on pre-treating the leachate and the council's utility assets manager Joanna Saywell suggested Midwest may be able to fully treat the leachate within a few years.

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"The direction that we give today is what's going to happen in the next few years," committee chair Dean McManaway said. "We need to be firm but fair. I do believe that Midwest realise this is a serious issue."

Mr McManaway supported continuing to accept the leachate as long as it was of an acceptable standard and did not affect the council's own resource consent to discharge treated water into the Tuatenui Stream. It was backed by the committee.

Councillor Nigel Belsham said if it was trade waste causing problems to the plant and not domestic waste, the bill should be picked up by industry.

"I don't believe that ratepayers in this area should be paying to allow trade waste to be dumped into this plant," he said. "Opus [consultants] have said that we've got a plant that can handle what it was designed to handle."

Mr McManaway said trade waste charges covered that.

"They pay every year an amount to us to make sure we continue to take it. It's not as though we're going to pay for it and never get the money back."

Rangitikei Mayor Andy Watson said the second anaerobic pond was always going to be built and, regardless of leachate and the cost of other components such as storage, would be paid for by the user.

The current pond needed the build-up of sludge removed, so a second anaerobic pond was necessary.

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The proposal would be peer reviewed and come back to the council to sign off, while there was also a plan to set up a focus group to involve the community in the upgrade. The council has set aside $3.8 million for the work.

Councillor Tim Harris did not think it was necessary.

"We know what we need to do, why beat around the bush? Why create another headache?"

But Mr McManaway said it was too big not to involve the community.

"If we don't do it this way, we could end up having people firing in the back door and trying to take us down."