Independent commissioners yesterday issued their opinion on the consent conditions Hastings Council will need to meet regarding stormwater discharges in local waterways.

Their decision is great news for the environment and the Regional Council. But challenging news for HDC, which will now, for the first time, need to meet stringent conditions for its stormwater disposal.

Much of Hastings’ urban stormwater runoff winds up in either the Karamu or Raupare Streams, which both feed into the Clive River. The Commissioners noted that “there has been growing concern within the community that stormwater discharges from the general urban runoff (residential, commercial, industrial and roads) is having a detrimental effect on the downstream receiving environments, leading to a degradation of waterways and loss of amenity.”

Their decision concludes: “After hearing the evidence and completing our site visit, we have no hesitation in concluding that the current ecological and amenity values of the relevant waterways have been adversely affected by stormwater discharges from urban areas. It is therefore important to ensure that the conditions attached to the consents ensure that stream habitats and the riparian vegetation improve and that overall, water quality in the receiving drains and streams also improves even if the Hastings, Havelock North and Clive urban areas continue to see increased population and industrialisation. The cumulative effects from the existing discharges and new developments mean that it is vitally important to ensure that appropriate and prioritised controls are placed on the discharges.”

Effectively, the Commissioners ruled that while more systematic data must be collected to establish the full extent of degradation, the effects are apparent and strict conditions must govern stormwater disposal, even while additional environmental impact data is acquired. Indeed, the ruling is very demanding and specific about the data to be collected, how it is to be analyzed and reported, and how it is to be acted upon if specified environmental parameters are not being met.

The Hastings Council will need to prepare a series of Catchment Management Plans (CMPs) detailing how it will deal with stormwater management and the associated environmental protection requirements of fifteen catchments in the Hastings District. In its resource consent application, HDC was proposing to develop and implement such CMPs; however, the Regional Council staff, in a fresh display of resolve, sought to impose rigorous conditions on these plans … too rigorous for HDC’s tastes. HDC appealed the matter.

Fortunately, the environment won.

The conditions proposed by HBRC and largely confirmed by the independent Commissioners will require extensive ongoing monitoring of stormwater flows and environmental impacts, modeling and measuring of contaminant levels for specified contaminants, as well as diligent reporting of high risk sites for contaminant discharges; incidents of spills, illegal discharges or other problems that threaten the receiving environment; inspection records for stormwater infrastructure; sediment quality sampling according to an approved protocol (e.g., for heavy metals), etc. Especially stringent water quality monitoring must be undertaken with respect to the Ruahapia and Irongate Streams.

HDC must prepare an exhaustive annual report on progress against its CMPs, its compliance with consent conditions, remedial or mitigation measures undertaken or planned, subdivision and development activities occurring, and the state of the receiving environment.

In addition, HDC must develop a stormwater community education programme to increase community awareness of the importance of stormwater management and compliance with applicable rules pertaining to discharges (i.e., the HDC Water Services Bylaw). As the Commissioners noted, referring to the Bylaw: “The effectiveness of that initiative will be determined by the level of resourcing provided to monitor, educate and enforce the bylaw.”

At two points in the 12-year term of this resource consent, HDC, following a protocol established in consultation with Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, must complete Cultural Health Index monitoring, at a minimum covering the Karamu Stream, springs that flow into the Upper Southland Drain, and Tomoana Drain.

Finally, and hugely important, the Regional Council is empowered to review all monitoring, reporting and CMPs annually and, if needed, require modifications if adverse effects on the environment have been discovered from activities authorised by this consent. In other words, if the receiving environment worsens, the Regional Council can get tougher.

A commendable decision by the independent Commissioners. It’s now up to both HDC and HBRC to make this new regime work for the benefit of our environment.

Congratulations to David Renouf and Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, whose submissions helped support the case from HBRC for tough conditions in this consent.

Tom Belford

P.S. Meanwhile, Napier’s stormwater management plan seems to consist of providing a bailing bucket to each household and business in the city … NCC, you’re next up for a tougher regime!

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1 Comment

  1. David Renouff has been in water quality issues for at least a decade and a half as I have in my area of expertise often the lone voices in our fields apart from Morry Black who began his rise to accredited hearings commissioner challenging water takes from the floor of public meetings.

    Well done David the tide is turning.

    I have recieved public recognition from HDC officers in comments on my submission to the HDC Annual Plan to be heard on June 3rd on the HBRC Notified Plan and Policy Change 4 also related to storm water disposal and onsite waste water disposal systems

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