THE Whanganui District Council has been urged to seriously consider an industry-promoted alternative to its $42 million wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), because its supporters claim the option could save the city millions in build and operational costs.

Whanganui businessman Neville Johnson said the alternative plant would cost $18 million, could be built in a year and cost $1 million annually to operate.

Mr Johnson has extrapolated figures of running the WWTP and said they highlighted the huge discrepancy in running costs between an $18 million plant and a $42 million one.

He said running costs for the cheaper plant (over 25 years) would total $25 million while the council's favoured option would total $175 million.


Mr Johnson said he became embroiled in the WWTP debate because an inter-island ferry service he has been working on would tap into local industries such as Affco as a major commercial customer. He's the sole director of Midwest Ferries, a company he set up some years ago with a view to starting an inter-island service between Whanganui and Motueka.

"As part of my ongoing discussions with the Talley group in Motueka, I became involved in the ongoing problems that company was having with the district council over their proposed new wastewater treatment scheme."

He was one of the signatories to the open letter to the council published in the Chronicle earlier this month. Like the others, he was alarmed at the cost of the new plant, as well as the annual operating costs of around $7 million.

Mr Johnson said he contacted Talleys' expert who said building the plant to his plan would take only a year, as compared with three years for the council option designed by Cardno BTO.

"This alternative plan would use the existing lagoon and cover it with a membrane to arrest odour, it wouldn't require any aerators because aeration wasn't needed with this design. And there'd be no need to dispose of any sludge for at least four years.

"If the council adopted this alternative, then I know all the wet industries would continue to use this system at an affordable price both for them and certainly the ratepayers.

"At a meeting on June 10, we presented new council chief executive officer Kym Fell with this design option. When he asked 'How long do we keep looking at alternative proposals?' I suggested the answer was until the council finds the best solution."

Mr Johnson said the council was being urged not to sign up to the Cardno design until they've had an urgent presentation from the Talleys group's consultant.

"Talleys have used this consultant for the last 15 years at all their wastewater plants and he's never let them down."