The source of the stench - the fire-damaged Christchurch Wastewater Treatment Plant. Photo: Screenshot/Christchurch City Council

Residents in the Christchurch suburb of Bromley are fed up with the putrid stench that’s invaded their homes after a fire at the neighbouring wastewater treatment plant six months ago. 

It’s not a smell, it’s a stench. It stagnates, it sits on you, it makes you nauseous. You can taste it in your food and even when you close your windows and doors, it invades your home. 

This is what people of Bromley and other east Christchurch suburbs have been living and breathing for six months, after a massive fire at the neighbouring wastewater treatment plant. 

“They say friends and family don’t want to come and see them, they can’t put their washing out on the line because it stinks,” says RNZ Christchurch reporter Jean Edwards.  

“They just want to go outside and relax after work, perhaps have a barbecue and they just can’t do that.” 

The stench is taking a toll on their mental and physical health and community leaders are worried about the “compounding trauma” of previous events, such as earthquakes and the ongoing impacts of Covid-19. 

“They’ve been through so much and this is making it even worse,” she says. 

Residents have been told the problem will be fixed within four months but they’re being warned the smell will get worse before it gets better.  

Edwards explains to The Detail the source of the stench, how the problem’s been handled by the Christchurch City Council, and why residents feel ignored and abandoned. 

The council will decide on compensation options for residents this week.  

“People have told councillors their power bills have gone up because they can’t open their windows and they’re using dehumidifiers and fans all the time; they’ve got dryers running to dry their clothes because they can’t put their washing on the line and some people have bought expensive air purifiers.” 

But it’s not clear how far the financial support will go

“They’ve indicated they want to help households in the immediate vicinity of the plant. That’s an interesting phrase because people are wondering what exactly that means and whether that’s a few streets or is it a block or is a suburb and this stench is drifting over a lot of suburbs, so it’s been met with a bit of scepticism.” 

There are also suggestions of a rates reprieve for homeowners, but Edwards says that won’t help people who rent.  

“People just want the council to do something, they want their lives back and they’ve come to the awful realisation that its four more months to go. It’s going to be a truly rotten winter for these people.” 

Find out how to listen and subscribe to The Detail here

You can also stay up-to-date by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter

Sharon Brettkelly is co-host of The Detail podcast.

Leave a comment