July 23, 2008

Farmer Takes on ES to Protect Mataura River

By MORGAN, Jared

AGE proved no barrier to environmental conscience when a 90-year- old Wyndham farmer took on Environment Southland in a personal bid to protect the Mataura River yesterday.

Dugald McKenzie's appeal against a resource consent to discharge into the Mataura River from a new sewerage scheme for the Edendale and Wyndham townships was the subject of a full-day hearing in the Environment Court in Invercargill.

The grounds of his appeal, lodged under section 120 of the Resource Management Act 1991, were simple, Mr McKenzie told Environment Judge Brian Dwyer and commissioners Dr Diane Menzies and Charles Manning: "That no more effluent is discharged into the Mataura River." The Southland District Council applied in July 2007 for resource consent to build a $13.7 million sewerage scheme, which includes new pipe connections to residents, at an existing gravel quarry on Edendale-Wyndham Rd.

The council intends to use either a traditional aerated pond- based method or a Biofiltro system that uses worm-based organic degradation for the sewerage plant.

An Environment Southland consents committee hearing, held in November granted the consent.

However, yesterday Mr McKenzie submitted there must be another way.

"To me there's many options, they (regional councillors) don't seem to have any imagination." Discharging waste to land seemed a better option in his view, he said, citing the Otautau sewerage scheme and planned discharge to land schemes in Queenstown and Canterbury as examples.

Counsel for both councils Barry Slowley said as far as Mr McKenzie was concerned septic tanks and sink holes were working satisfactorily.

"However, what may work now of a fashion may not work in the future ... a reticulated sewage scheme to both towns is sensible," he said.

But discharges to land were simply not possible, Mr Slowley said. "The appellant argues there must be a better way -- there simply isn't." Staff from both the district and regional councils were on hand to answer questions about the proposed scheme and the options being considered to treat sewage before it is discharged at the Wyndham Bridge over the Mataura River.

Judge Dwyer said the court reserved its decision, which will be delivered in writing in coming weeks.

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