Council calls for reinstatement of sewerage subsidies

The Hurunui District Council is urging Government to reinstate a subsidy scheme to help struggling rural communities upgrade outdated sewerage systems.

Over recent years, at the request of residents, the Council has investigated the feasibility of constructing a reticulated disposal system for Waipara township, in North Canterbury.

The prospect was raised because of the possibility of combining such a public scheme with one to serve a proposed wine village and a proposed large subdivision.

Special Projects Manager, Bruce Yates, says during the time of the investigations and public meetings, the Government stopped its Sanitary Works Subsidy Scheme.

As a result, ratepayers in the town with a population of around 250 might have to find around $15,000 apiece to fund a new scheme.

In addition, Bruce Yates says, each property owner will also be faced with the “not inconsiderable” costs of piping from their house to the street and the de-commissioning of their septic tanks.

“Clearly that sort of individual investment is beyond the means of many, but even if it is paid in instalments over time, it is a lot of money for a small rural community to find in times of economic stress and an added burden some may have to carrry for the next 20 years.”

The previous sanitary works subsidy scheme (SWSS) provided subsidies of up to 90% in some cases, and Bruce Yates says without some form of support communities are going to struggle to fund schemes entirely on their own.

The Government had previously recognised the benefits to the environment of replacing individual septic tanks with reticulated schemes with modern treatment plants but had decided not to continue with funding assistance.

This year the council will be investigating another similar scheme for Culverden and also has communities in Waiau, Rotherham, and Gore Bay that may, in time, need to look at building community sewerage schemes.

 “This is not just about the 110 households in Waipara. It is also about ensuring all our communities are able to install appropriate schemes that are not only economically viable but will also in the long term improve the groundwater and general environment”.

“When existing septic tanks come up for renewal residents will no longer be able to replace like for like. They are now required to install a more environmentally efficient model, the cost of which virtually equates to the individual contribution towards a proper reticulated system”.

“While it makes sense to put that money into a longterm investment that will not only meet today’s needs but those of future generations, the issue of affordability still remains.”

The SWSS was over-subscribed with hundreds of small towns throughout New Zealand still without environmentally acceptable methods of disposing of human waste.

The Hurunui District Council has formally written to the Government “imploring” it to reconsider, what it believes “was a hasty and ill-informed decision to scrap the scheme.”

 For further information contact:                

Bruce Yates                                                 

Amenities and Special Projects Manager

Hurunui District Council                             

03 314 0016