As we write, Napier’s Ahuriri Estuary has just completed eleven days of lockdown – i.e., don’t swim or gather food there – because of sewage overflows into that water body.
Hopefully you can swim this weekend. But do you want to be first to jump in?!
The situation is shameful, but because of decades of infrastructure neglect by previous NCC decision-makers, the Estuary’s pain and suffering will repeat again and again for years.
To its credit, the current NCC regime has allocated nearly $190 million in its Long-Term Plan for water system repairs and upgrades over the next decade ($42.3 million of that for stormwater fixes).
Back on 24 January, the Napier City Council issued a media release titled, ‘Smart manholes’, noting that “Across Napier, 50 manholes are getting their own ‘brains’. Sensors are being installed inside manholes to warn Council staff when a drain is getting too full, or reaching its capacity.”
“Thanks to the sensors we’ll know there’s an issue before it’s an issue!” explained Paul Davison, the engineer leading the project. “Before this we’ve been blind to what’s happening minute by minute, area by area in the underground network. This will give us pre-emptive info so we can act immediately.”
In other words, NCC will be able to put up its ‘Don’t’ Swim’ warning signs sooner!
Presumably, for $42.3 million the people of Napier and the region’s treasured Estuary will get more than smart manhole covers and earlier warnings their streets and waterways are about to be full of sewage.
What we need to see is the workplan – with specific milestones along the way, reviewed regularly – that commits to ending sewage discharges into the Estuary by a date certain we can all mark on our calendars.