The Regional Council and the CHB District Council are determined to put themselves on a collision course with environmentalists with regard to cleaning up the Tukituki.
Since December 2006 the CHB Council has known (having been so instructed by the Environment Court) that it would need to significantly upgrade its sewage treatment facilities for Waipuk and Waipawa by 30 September 2014 in order to meet more stringent effluent discharge conditions.
In short, CHB was told to get it s**t out of the river by 2014.
Since 2006, CHB has dithered and dithered and dithered … and the Regional Council, charged with enforcing the consent conditions, has watched them dither.
So where are we now?
On Wednesday, the HBRC tentatively approved giving CHB an $800,000 loan to ‘speed up’ the process of getting its waste out of the river.
However, ‘speed up the process of getting its waste out of the river’ has taken on significantly new and ironic meaning.
1. CHB actually proposes to get only 49% of its waste out of the river (abandoning an alternative, apparently costing $1-2 million more, that would fully treat and remove 1oo% of their sewage).
2. And they propose to delay meeting the water quality conditions set in their current consent by three years … not until 2017.
By tentatively signing-off on this loan (the decision will be ratified at next week’s HBRC meeting), the Regional Councillors have endorsed the CHB’s plan to delay and undermine meeting the conditions that already exist!
This is ‘progress’ HBRC-style on Tukituki clean-up! For two years now (i.e., since before the 2010 election), HBRC has been promoting the expectation that they had a grand scheme for getting the sewage discharge from CHB taken care of … completely and on schedule. The action yesterday proves that to be a fabrication.
Only Councillors Kirton, Remmerswaal and McGregor even asked for an alternative plan to be presented that might permit the original consent conditions to be met on schedule. The rest of their colleagues voted that down.
The CHB chief executive was on hand to state that the new resource consent application that would enable this delaying strategy would be filed in October. That should be taken largely as a joke, and was, since numerous such commitments by the CHB (and HBRC itself) have evaporated before.
Further, both parties — CHB and HBRC — are proceeding as though no one will object to this plan during the resource consent process. Indeed, in response to a query from Councillor Kirton, the CHB chief executive acknowledged that there were in fact other parties to the original consent and that these parties had not been consulted. HBRC itself has conferred with the other parties, and has been told unequivocally that they will object to both the 3-year delay and to the continued discharge of effluent into the Tukituki.
Hence my prediction of a collision course when the resource consent process gets underway.
Virtually none of the Regional Councillors are aware of the views of the environmental parties to the existing consent. And so they think that by giving CHB an $800,000 ‘bridge loan’ they’ve fixed the Tukituki and can bask in accolades.
When in reality, all they’ve done — by not doing their homework — is endorse a watered down (forgive the pun) strategy that won’t make it out of the starting gate.
The strong suggestion during the HBRC discussion was that the new consent application would be heard by independent hearings commissioners (since in reality HBRC invented the plan and can’t therefore judge it). And it was implied, but not confirmed, that the consent application would be publicly notified, meaning that any interested parties could submit … and potentially appeal.
It’s a safe bet that, given an open consent process, opponents to the CHB/HBRC scheme will surface … just as they did to force the tougher consent conditions in 2006.
And it’s taken five years to get to this point!