Contrary to Regional Council rhetoric, the Tukituki won’t be getting cleaned-up anytime soon.

I want to like the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council. I really do.

I try to convince myself that Hawke’s Bay needs a council whose primary function — as distinct from the territorial bodies — is to actually protect the environment. And that therefore amalgamation, including folding environmental protection into a single unitary body that is also a major polluter, is a bad idea.

But HBRC seems determined to prove that they are irrelevant … or at the very least, simply not credible as that protector.

Latest case in point …

Remember how we were told (first reported by BayBuzz back in May 2009 ) that the Regional Council had come up with this great idea that would stop the dumping of domestic wastewater from Central Hawke’s Bay sewage treatment ponds into the Tukituki, spreading it instead on forest land to be purchased by HBRC? And that this scheme could be put into place quickly, accelerating clean-up of the Tukituki that would not otherwise begin until 30 September 2014?

Well, I’m afraid that proposition is a bunch of cow manure (another of the Tukituki’s problems).

The CHB District Council has still not even filed its resource consent application for the scheme.

Having been told repeatedly by HBRC that the application would be filed imminently, only to see indicated dates pass by, BayBuzz asked then-Mayor Trish Giddens about the delay back in September of last year. She in turn asked CHB Chief Executive John Freeman. Here’s his reply, written on September 17th:

Hi Trish,

talking to CGP who are doing the legal stuff around the consents we are still on track for submitting them to Regional Council next Friday.

Regards john f

By my calendar, “next Friday” would have been September 24th, 2010.

Keep in mind that the consent application was originally supposed to be filed in October 2009! See this BayBuzz update at that time. On March 10, as reported in this post, BayBuzz was told the application would be filed by the “end of April” 2010. Then on May 27, BayBuzz was told the application would be filed “next week”.

Beginning to see the pattern here?! And why I asked Mayor Giddens for an explanation a full year after the initial promised filing date?

So last Wednesday, at the recent Regional Council meeting, staff was asked what had become of the CHB resource consent application yet again (by Councillor Alan Dick, not by such ‘champions’ of Tukituki clean-up as Councillors McGregor or Gilbertson, who live next to the river, but are satisfied it’s fine because they can see their toes in the water).

The answer given was that the consultant to CHB who was familiar with the project was no longer on the job … someone new needed to be found to complete the application!

What a load of cow****! Even BayBuzz could have completed the application by now.

Here’s a more plausible explanation.

CHB doesn’t want to progress the application because they would then need to begin spending on the actual clean-up scheme sooner, rather than waiting out till the 30 September 2014 deadline in their existing consent (and continuing to pollute the Tukituki that much longer).

And for its part, the Regional Council is unwilling to force the issue … preferring to sit on its thumbs. Or being more charitable, simply too busy writing future scenarios, planning dams and super-charging Hawke’s Bay tourism.

Whichever explanation you choose to believe, the public has been deceived. No accelerated clean-up of the Tukituki is going to occur … full stop. And the Councillors who told us it would, have been either duped or deceitful.

Neither CHB Mayor Peter Butler nor CEO Freeman responded to a BayBuzz query on the subject.

Lesson learnt … If the HBRC can’t manage even this straightforward bit of environmental protection, how in the world could they credibly claim they will protect environmental values while promoting a $200 million CHB dam and water harvesting scheme, which will entail more intensive land use … and associated water pollution for the Tukituki?

HBRC needs to remind itself of its mission … or lose it.

Tom Belford

P.S. On the subjects of land use and water, representatives of the national Land and Water Forum, which has issued fairly meaty recommendations for cleaning up our waterways, agreed upon by a broad array of stakeholders, will conduct a briefing and dialogue with HB folks next Tuesday, March 1, 7-930pm, at the HB Opera House. Good chance to catch up with some important thinking on land use and water issues.

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3 Comments

  1. Good morning Tom

    CHBDC is committed to improvements to its waste water system which will result in significant improvements to the quality of water in the Tukituki and Waipawa Rivers. The current resource consent requires Council to have achieved those improvements by September 2014.

    CHBDC would like to achieve significant improvement earlier than that date and is currently working towards removal of part of the waste water stream from the river by the end of the 2011/12 summer.

    CHBDC is considering a range of possible options for improved waste water treatment, and needs to be satisfied that the option chosen will result in a cost effective and affordable solution for the CHB community. To achieve this CHBDC is reviewing both the capital and ongoing operational costs of possible solutions. The change in time frame is an operational matter associated with the consultant involved in the process. This has been proactively managed by Council.

    CHBDC is treating this as a priority and is working closely with Hawke’s Bay Regional Council with regard to; the use of their forests for the treatment of waste water; resource consenting issues; and possible financial arrangements to enable the improvements to commence as soon as possible.

    As soon as we are in a position to provide further information to the public we will be doing so.

  2. Freeman says, 'The change in time frame is an operational matter associated with the consultant involved in the process.'

    Sounds like passing the buck to me.

    Be good to hear from the consultant who's being blamed for the delay.

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