Carterton District Council has an unconditional agreement to purchase an 85-hectare parcel of land adjacent to its new wastewater reservoirs at Daleton Farm that could see the expansion of its strategy to remove the discharge of treated wastewater into waterways.

In January 2018, Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) approved a 35-year resource consent to undertake land-based discharge of treated wastewater onto land owned at Dalefield Road. The consent includes approximately 20ha of pivot irrigation and around 25ha of land for further development.  This 25ha has been recently leased to GWRC for a poplar and willow pole nursery, irrigated with treated wastewater.

The Council completed the construction of its new wastewater reservoirs in 2023 and has continued to increase the amount of treated wastewater being discharged to land over time, with 2022 figures showing more than 20% of treated wastewater being discharged to land, compared to 5% in 2015. A key element of removing treated wastewater being discharged into the Mangatārere Stream, is the utilisation of land-based irrigation. The Council has been seeking to acquire additional land to expand irrigation of treated wastewater.

The opportunity for Council to purchase additional land on Matarawa Road adjoining the current Council-owned land has recently become a reality.  This was a rare opportunity that means we can improve our level of service for wastewater activities.

Chief Executive Geoff Hamilton said the Council needed to act quickly so as not to miss out on land that was fit for purpose and in an ideal location.

“The purchase of this land provides Council with the option to discharge to an additional 85 Hectares – an area big enough to fulfil our strategy during the consented irrigation window,” Mr Hamilton said.

“This purchase provides Council and our community with options.  Public consultation around the purchase and the future use of the land will occur in April 2024 as part of our Long-Term Plan process.”

“It’s important to note that the purchase does not commit us to expanding the land-based discharge strategy, merely provides us with options. We will be seeking community input on whether further expansion should occur, outlining the costs and benefits of doing so.”

The Council’s wastewater asset management plan allowed for a budget of $3,266,000 for the expansion of the land area in Year 15 (2035/36 year). The Government’s Affordable Waters Reform programme in its current state proposes significant changes to Council’s ownership and operations of three waters assets.  However, with a change in Government, it is unclear whether the reforms will take place as currently proposed.

“We hope to get more clarity around the Affordable Waters Reforms before March so we can give an indication on how we plan to fund this purchase, and to the extent it will impact ratepayers,” Mr Hamilton said.

Work will begin immediately on developing options for the land, including discussions about expanding the existing Resource Consent with GWRC. The Council will lease the land back to the current owners while it awaits the outcome of the public consultation, and its Resource Consent application.  This is expected to take up to 18 months.

The Sale and Purchase Agreement for this property will be settled in March 2024, at which stage the Council will consult with the public regarding the purchase, options for the site and the potential impact on Rates.  Until then, the purchase price will remain confidential.