The Central Hawke’s Bay District Council is stumbling its way toward a decision on how to deal with its wastewater dumping into the Tukituki.

Last week, Friends of the Tukituki (FOT) offended CHBDC by indicating in their LPT submission that they would sue the Council if it failed to meet new tougher pollution standards by late 2014. Both the tougher standards and the deadline were set several years ago by the Environment Court.

FOT’s warning is understandable in light of CHBDC’s slow motion approach to meeting the approaching deadline. And also understandable given historical doubts about the Regional Council’s resolve to force compliance.

But there was another submission on the matter which is hugely important … potentially.

It was the Regional Council’s submission, which warned (download in full here):

“The existing consents authorising the Waipukurau and Waipawa discharges to water require a significant upgrade of level of treatment, which is to be fully in place and operational no later than 30 September 2014. The existing consents set a range of water quality standards that any discharges to water must meet after the upgrade is in place, and these were confirmed by the Environment Court in 2006. That has allowed you a period of eight years to determine which method of treatment you wish to install and then construct it.

It is the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s continued expectation, and that of the wider community, that by 30 September 2014 the Central Hawke’s Bay District Council will have constructed and commissioned a treatment upgrade that achieves the water quality standards set out in the existing consent. Depending on the method of wastewater treatment your Council chooses alternative resource consents may need to be sought from this Council, but it is important that you are made aware that the water quality standards imposed on any new consent will be as stringent, if not more so, than those on the existing resource consents.” (Ed: emphasis  added)

In this commendable submission, the HBRC has made its strongest statement to date regarding the quality standards that must be met. This is a statement that BayBuzz is certainly gratified to see. And we — and no doubt Friends of the Tukituki — will hold the HBRC’s feet to the fire on this.

Not only is meeting the standards the necessary thing for CHBDC to do simply to rectify its own pollution situation, their compliance (or not) is part of the bigger picture of managing and reducing the overall pollution load in the entire Tukituki catchment.

As the HBRC submission went on to say:

“The National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS) was issued by the Minister for the Environment in May 2011 and the planned change to the Regional Resource Management Plan relating to the Tukituki River will have to meet the freshwater objectives set out in the NPS. Noncompliance in water quality runs the risk of compromising other initiatives underway that are focused on better management of the Tukituki catchment in its entirety.”

In other words, HBRC has bigger fish to fry. If it wants to build a water storage scheme in the upper catchment — one that will bring intensified farming and associated nutrient run-off — it must be able to protect the entire catchment. That requires less pollution from CHB.

Demonstrating that it will in fact be rigorous in monitoring and enforcing CHBDC’s compliance with more stringent water quality standards is one of the most important boxes HBRC will need to tick if it wants environmentalists to support its grander ambitions for the catchment.

The submission indicates the right intention. But the deeds must follow.

Tom Belford

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