Christchurch residents affected by wastewater plant stench to receive $1 million in support

By Niva Chittock for RNZ

Christchurch City councillors have voted unanimously to provide more than $1 million worth of funding to residents affected by the stench from its damaged waste water plant.

For months, residents have experienced itchy eyes, sore throats, nausea and insomnia and have been unable to do basic chores, like hang out washing.

It came after a morning of impassioned community and staff presentations, where councillors learnt of children having seizures due to the smell.

Linwood-Central-Heathcote Community Board chairperson Alexandra Davis spoke to the council in a personal capacity.

"Children are not attending school, due to parents having to keep them at home because they are so sick. Most shockingly, it has come to light that some children have been having seizures, that until recently, have not been a health issue," she said.

Davis vouched for a health register to monitor illnesses or symptoms caused by the smell, which was added to the final proposal.

The community support package covers 3380 households in the worst affected suburb of Bromley - 362 more homes than in the initial proposal.

Each household would be able to receive $200 from Monday, as well as discretionary medical funds - another thing Davis said the community desperately needed.

"For a lot of people in our communities, popping down to the doctor is unfortunately something that unless they were really ill, is not viable. $50 for a check up and the cost of follow ups are unattainable and I have concerns that we will be making people leave their ailments till they are in a far worse state," she told councillors.

Residents would only have to provide proof of address to access the funds and $200,000 would also be paid out to affected schools.

Councillors Yani Johansen and Celeste Donovan helped make a number of additions to the original plan, including the health register, which would be set up by Canterbury District Health Board.

A Response and Recovery Action Programme would have to be provided too, streamlining all of the council's work on the damaged waste water plant, including community support.

The $1m cap for the package had also been moved, with staff required to come back to the council if further funding is needed.

Staff would also continue to investigate whether suburbs with high numbers of complaints which fell outside of the area, like South Brighton and South Shore, should be included at a later stage.

There was not yet any funding or support services allocated for businesses in the affected area.