Climate change means community has to pay for own wastewater system

IGNORED: Upper Selwyn Huts residents Graeme Young and Graham Evans are angry at the district council's refusal to pay for its wastewater system. PHOTO: MARTIN HUNTER

The Upper Selwyn Huts community is outraged after it was made to fund its own wastewater system.

The district council voted last Wednesday – ruling that the residents would have to pay in full for a wastewater scheme, when its current scheme expires in June 2020.

The two wastewater options proposed by the council would cost $2.9 million and $6.2 million.

Residents advocated they should be able to pay for its new wastewater scheme through a targeted rate, like other parts of the district.

Upper Selwyn Huts resident Graham Evans felt the community of about 100 households near Lake Ellesmere was being ignored.

He and other residents – Collin Giddens and Graeme Young – presented to the district council last week, pleading their case for a targeted rate.

“The decision disgusts three of our members,” Mr Evans said.

“The problem we are concerned with is, why are they [council] discriminating us from being off targeted rating?”

The district council’s external consultation – completed by Development Matters – also recommended to include the Upper Selwyn Huts in the district rating scheme.

But district council chief executive David Ward told the Selwyn Times that its position to decline targeted rates was due to climate change.

He said the Upper Selwyn Huts has limited time due to climate change and forecast sea level rises this century. Therefore, the council did not believe it was right for ratepayers elsewhere in the district to pay for its wastewater system.

“The council’s opinion is that there is an issue of fairness in asking the entire district to pay for a wastewater system at Upper Selwyn Huts given the uncertain, but clearly limited, time frame that any new wastewater system would be in use,” Mr Ward said.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research states that by 2050, sea levels will rise between 0.15m and 0.3m.

“We had a flood which took the lake [Ellesmere] up to 2.1m and we still weren’t under water,” Mr Young said.

He felt the district council is “hiding behind” climate change to not fund the system.

Based on the two options tabled by the district council, each household in the Upper Selwyn Huts now faces $30,000 or $64,500 to pay for a wastewater system.

Mr Young said the residents could not afford that.

They will now work with the district council to look at a way to reduce the costs of a new wastewater system, he said.

“We’re getting involved to make sure the cost is down.”

Said Mr Ward: “There are a range of situations across council services where individuals or individual communities pay directly for the service they receive and the council feels it is reasonable given the unique situation in this case to ask the direct beneficiaries of the system to pay for it given that situation.”