Today HB Regional Councillors receive a report on Tukituki water quality. Unfortunately, the document raises more questions than it answers.
Knowledgeable critics of HBRC’s handling of the Tukituki have expressed rather specific concerns. For example …
- A critical monitoring site just below the point where oxidation ponds spew into the river has been removed for several years. Even in 2003, data from that site put faecal coliform levels in the 550-750 cfu/100ml range (three times and more above the HBRC’s own highest guidelines) and soluble reactive phosphorus averaging 0.036 (more than twice the guideline);
- The most recent data available from sampling that the CHB Council itself undertakes show a pattern of violation of the currently operative resource consent requirements;
- Sampling methods used by the HBRC are questionable.
Now, if I were calling the shots at HBRC, and credible constituents came forward with these concerns, here’s what I’d say and do …
“OK mates, let’s go down to the river together, to the location you’re most concerned about. Let’s do some sampling, your way and ours (while we seek some outside expertise on this point). And let’s see what the results show us currently. That will get us on the same page regarding the facts. Then we can debate what, if any, remedial actions are required, and how quickly.”
Doesn’t that seem pretty sensible?
Instead we have charts based on five-year-old data and tables indicating how much cleaner the water will be six or more years from now.
Oddly, the document seems to be arguing … “Don’t worry, the water’s OK. And because the wastewater treatment systems must be upgraded (something, BTW, the Environment Court had to order over protests from the involved Councils), it will be better in the future.” Hmmm … if Tukituki water quality is to be “considered good” now, as the report concludes, why do we need the upgrade?
Critics aren’t interested in trends from the 1990s. Nor in comparisons to national figures (especially when the Ministry of Environment has just reported that, nationwide, NZ water quality sucks). Nor in waiting six years for improvements that could be achieved well within two years … if there were the political will.
BayBuzz has been offered a briefing on the report, which we will certainly accept. We have lots of pesky questions.
But of far greater educational value — including for Councillors — would be watching the HBRC staff defend its report in open give-and-take “peer review” with the folks from the Hawke’s Bay Environmental Water Group, who put the issues on the table in the first place.
Now that’s a water show that would beat the best that Marineland has to offer!
Meanwhile, click here if you’d like to send HBRC Chairman Rex McIntyre a message on the subject.