Farmers between Palmerston North and the coast are being encouraged to speak up urgently about the city’s options for future wastewater management and disposal.
Spokesman for a food and fibre group of interested farmers Peter Wells said landowners needed to be aware of the implications of the council’s combined land and river disposal option.
That is one of three options that has been put out for public feedback. The others involve disposing most of the wastewater to the Manawatū River after enhanced treatment, or piping it out to sea.
Wells said the mixed disposal option would require more than 1700 hectares of alluvial flat land, not too close to the coast.
It would be the largest land discharge in New Zealand.
The group had prepared a map showing how that would eat up a huge proportion of productive land downstream of the city.
Wells said they had no idea whether any of the blocks of land they had indicated would be suitable, but neither did the city council. The point to be made was that it was a very great deal of land for the region to give up.
He said it was also not clear whether the council would have to designate the land under the Public Works Act, but he thought it unlikely farmers’ would volunteer to have their land used for wastewater dispersal.
Fonterra would not take milk from farms where human waste had been distributed, which ruled out dairying, and it was likely all that could be done would be to grow grass, for which there would be little market or income, Wells said.
The group is hosting a meeting at Farmsource Longburn on the main highway on Wednesday at 11am.
Wells said the group had been working with the council for six months, and did not want to be seen as acting in opposition to what the city council was proposing.
“But we want to make sure people in our region understand what is going to happen.”
Wells said he felt the council had invested its resources in other aspects of the Nature Calls project, and had not done enough to engage with farmers beyond the city who could be affected, so they were doing it themselves.
The group was supported by Federated Farmers NZ, which would also be making a submission on the city council’s proposals.
The main point of the meeting was to provide information, and to encourage people to have their say by 5pm on Sunday.