Since my first post on water quality, alot of media attention has been focused on the performance and cost of  some of the Nations Waste Water and Sewage Plants.

First I would like to comment on Local Government New Zealands submission to the Ministry for the Enviroment on the Discounts Regulations, Issues and options Paper. This relates to the above.

In LGNZ’s over view of the proposal, para 4, LGNZ states that it does not support the Discount Regulation to become part of the Streamlining Amendment Act, part 2 , to be considered at the end of 2010.

The reason is that the regulation may be at the expense of “Best Practice” by resource management practitioners, and may unfairly penalise small local Authorities, and impose a heavy financial burden on thoes Local Authorities dealing with large complex consents.

LGNZ is also concerned that the regulations will set a precident where financial penalties are imposed on Local Authorities for non compliance for with statuatory time frames.

This relates you will remember with my previous post stating as you will recall Ruapehu District Councils Annual Plan 2008/09. Ever increasing standards and shorter and shorter time frames to achieve.

I believe this will encourage shoddy systems for sewage and waste water plants, and I will give a example futher on, being installed in a hurry, which may achieve the outcomes desired, but at a price to other values.

It is important to note that in para 6 of the submission, LGNZ states that the Discount Regulations proposed are based on the premise that the time frames contained in the RMA are fair and reasonable.But is this the case.? The submission points out that for 2007/08  period only 69% of all consents wher processed on time. For this period only 52% of notified consent applications were processed on time. Has much changed.? Well LGNZ says yes, but at a cost to Local Authorities in so far as they have hired additional staff who may not necessarily need to be employed all the time leading to increased costs to Rate Payers. para 20.

A good example to the previous paragraph, shoddy systems, is the new Hastings District Council, Tangata Whenua joint sewage and waste water plant. It is my information that  it cost $23 million to build. The Dominion Post reported on the 26/03/10 that the Hastings muck takes too long to get to the sewage plant leaving nearby residents enduring a nasty stench. In other words it stank.

Hastings District council has been given 8 weeks to find a solution. Distict Council CEO Ross McLeod said that the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff solution was to put a $2 million lid on the sewage pond.

In other words something slamned together in a hurry to keep a Treaty Partner happy to meet the time frames imposed, with no regard to the present and future costs to the community required to fund it. The Dominion Post reported that Napier City Council Whilist considering the same disposal system would put a “lid” on it.

The Eastern Courier, a Auckland regional paper, reported  on the 09/04/10. Aucklands enviroment faces a tough future, that according to the Auckland Regional Councils 3rd State of the Enviroment report released in March. States, Combined enviromental pressures are set to continue unabated. With a growing population forcaste, estimated 2 million by 2035, there will be no respite from associated negative enviromental impacts.

Regional Stratagy and Planning Committee Chairman Paul Walbran says that despite some grim reading about air pollution, degraded streams and rivers, sewage and waste water issues, sediment smothering Marine life, aging storm water drains and the effects of of heavy metals, (zinc in tyres) on estatries, there never the less are some positive points to celebrate. Pest numbers in ecologically sensitive areas have been reduced, and public transport patronage is on the up.

We have councils doing some great stuff at significant cost to rate payers. Lets look at Marsterton District Councils $23 million and expected to increase,  planned new sewage and waste water plant upgrade, which will reduce the discharge of treated waste by approx 40%. This will result in a 6% increase in urban  rates to 9%. Add a $2 million upgrade on the sewer reticulation scheme, a aside of the Councils Riverside Beach sewage scheme, $ 8 million. Then there is the Mawley Park Camping ground, $2 million taking the total cost to $35 million. Great news ,hope they are compliant from day one.

Lets look at the Christchurch City Councils new waste water and sewage plant just commissioned. $87 million, piping treated waste via a plastic pipe 3 km out to sea at Pegasus Bay. The treatment removes 95% of organic material and 99% of bacteria. Swimmers will only notice a shimmer on the surface of the sea.? 5.5 million cubic meters a sec will be pumped out to sea.

Well with 3 km of sea between the outfall and the beach, costing $87 million , here’s hoping.

Am I correct when I state that the  new sewage and waste water plant built for Upper Hutt at again a cost of $23 million is non compliant and has been since day one and to put the boot in the local council demanded that local residents up grade their storm water systems at a approximate cost of $2000 per section. What in put did the Greater Wellington Regional Councils Co- Governance Committee have in this, and Mastertons up grades.?

 The Taurarua District Council spent $4 million 4 years ago upgrading its sewage and waste water plant at Dannevirke. Horizons Enviroment Committee agenda tells the story. Another upgrade needed.? still issues with compliance.

The point I am making is that our communities are spending large sums of money to achieve out comes demanded by whom.? Is it the Tangata Whenua or is it extremists with in Local Government pursuing out comes they desire.? If it is the Tangata Whenua, is it all Iwi Authorities wish or or are decision makers only consulting with like minded Iwi Authorities? Can our Urban Communities afford the constant and ever increasing costs, and shorter and shorter time frames being demanded as identified by the Ruapehu District Council and submitted against in the LGNZ submission to the Discount Regulations paper as part of the up coming Part 2 of the RMA Streamling Act. I think not.

Lets be in no doubt, extremists will not be happy till the discharge to the recieving enviroment is pure. A good case in point is the Tainui/ Crown Joint Management agreement  for the Waikato River. Quote, Waikato District Councils press release 26th March 2010. Tuku Morgan. This is what needs to be done for future generations. The river has a speacial significance not only for Maori, but for many “others” in the Region?. The restoration of our awa tupuna to it’s former glory has always been a key aspiration.

Is this achievable given that large tracts of the Waikato was peat swamp and very acidic at that.

At what cost to our health, wealth , social , and cultural needs of all people.

Lets look at the Waitaki District Council, which has granted consents for 16 new dairy farms. 3 of which would house cows most of the year round. Factory Farming, cried the Enviromental Defence Society, and is taking legal action to overturn the Councils decision.

Should the Society take a closer look at their imprint on the Enviroment they live in.? 

Whilist I have given some  examples of seemingly perfect sewage and waste water schemes, the jury is still out on wether they will stand the test of time compliance wise and at what cost to rate payers. To me it seems that most of our Sewage and Waste Water Plants Nationaly are non compliant and always will be. Do not get me wrong . the technology is there, but the cost to achieve the desired out come. When Urban Rate payer are absorbing 6-9% annual rate increases but wages are only increasing at 3% per ann, then over a 10 year period, it is not hard to see that something is going to give.  

At least the Auckland Regional Council has recognised the cost of achieving the seemingly impossible, the futility of it, and given their honesty, the fact that there is a awful lot of gathering and fishing, including swimming and other recreational activities in on and around the regions harbours and estaries and including the Waikato River amoungest other, then is it not the negative and subjective interpretation  of the assement of the enviromental effects that are over stated. There is a level of enviromental degradation we must all be prepared to accept in order to provide for our selves and our communities needs now and into the future. The trick as Auckland Regional Council has identified is that the enviroment is managed in a sustainable manner. Do not forget , we are a integral part of that enviroment.