10 Aug 2016

New sewerage system for Franz Josef questioned

6:54 pm on 10 August 2016

Franz Josef's 300 ratepayers could face a $6.2 million bill if the wider region votes they have to pay for their new sewerage system, after flooding earlier this year.

The Waiho River bursts its banks and runs through the Mueller Hotel in Franz Josef

The system was damaged when the Waiho River bursts its banks earlier this year. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

The small West Coast town's two oxidation ponds were built in the 1970s and were designed to accommodate a population of about 500 people, with no allowance made for seasonal tourist demand.

In peak season the town can sleep 3000 guests, putting pressure on infrastructure.

When the Waiho River burst its banks earlier this year, one of the oxidation ponds was nearly filled with gravel, the other also suffered damage.

The Westland District Council has now opened consultation on how to pay for a new sewerage system.

The three options include the whole rating base paying, only Franz Josef residents paying for it, or a 50-50 split.

Council mayoralty candidate Bruce Smith has questioned if the new plant was necessary.

"They could built a 3.8m pond on council land and carry on for the next 30-40 years, the current ponds were built in the '70s and have cost very little to run because they are gravity fed, the council has come up with this plant and want to spent $150,000 a year to run it.

Mr Smith said locals were fed up because the council had provided very little information about the new sewerage plant.

"As far as we know the new plant is Indian-made but has never been tested in either New Zealand or Australia.

"The council has walked over everyone in the community and told them you're getting a new $6.2m sewerage plant and the only thing we are prepared to consult on is how we are going to pay for it," Mr Smith said.

Franz Josef community development officer Helen Lash said it was unclear how the council came up with the $6.2m figure.

"It is disappointing we don't have all the information yet. I don't understand how ratepayers and the community can submit on the funding model when we know nothing about the plan."

Ms Lash said the council was holding public meetings on the proposed sewerage system across the district in coming weeks, and she hoped more information will be readily available.

"It's getting frustrating we just want to make sure we get the best result which is the best system for the best price."

Ms Lash said the proposed site for the new system was in an area air-marked for further tourism development and was zoned commercial, not industrial.

Submissions on how the new system will be paid for close on 8 September, and the council is expected to make a decision on 29 September.

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