5 Dec 2012

No resolution for residents on contaminated land

11:15 pm on 5 December 2012

Residents of an arsenic-contaminated suburb of Thames still don't know what will happen to their land following a day-long meeting officials ended without resolution.

About 200 Moanatairi properties were found to be contaminated in 2011 when contractors dug up soil at a local school. Since then, various authorities have been tasked with fixing the problem.

The Thames-Coromandel District Council wants to leave the land as it is and educate people about washing their hands and vegetables grown in the soil.

Mayor Glenn Leach says he won't bankrupt the district by spending millions of dollars remediating against nature. He told the meeting that the toxin levels are low and a result of natural occurring mineralisation, and health risks are minute.

Mr Leach says the majority of residents believe the project has been "overcooked" and are worried that widespread reporting of the problem is damaging their equity.

But the Ministry for the Environment and the Waikato Regional Council are taking a more cautious approach, believing that the extent of the risks has not been properly worked through.

The group has ruled out intensive digging of the land, but has not decided how to remediate hotspots of the naturally occurring toxin.

A community spokesperson, Shane Bromley, says the plan is to look at the soil section by section and talk to landowners individually.

Mr Bromley says residents have mixed views on the contamination, with some concerned about their children playing on the land and others believing there is no issue.

Further consultation with the community will be carried out.