The Regional Council has had to step in to resuscitate the scheme to stop the release of Waipukurau and Waipawa sewage into the Tukituki.
This project would save the financial butt of CHB ratepayers (as well as improve the health of the Tuki) by providing a HBRC-subsidised solution to pump treated wastewater safely onto land the Regional Council would purchase (instead of into the river). However, the planning has stalled because of CHB’s lackadaisical approach to preparing the resource consent that will be required for the discharge onto land to proceed. The consent application was to have been filed by October.
Also, planning has been complicated by the realisation that antiquated stormwater systems in those communities allow stormwater to infiltrate the wastewater system. In heavy rainstorms, this results in far more untreated water flowing into the oxidation ponds … too much water to be handled by the ponds or to be pumped onto the Regional Council’s land (which would already be water-logged).
[Note: Environmentalist David Renouf raised the issue of stormwater runoff volume exceeding the capacity of the system when he and I were given a site visit and briefing on the scheme all the way back on 4 June 2009.]
Apparently, the CHB Council and HBRC staff have come up with potential solutions to this problem.
To get things back on track, the Regional Council has organised a working party that will include the Chief Executives and relevant staff from HBRC and the CHB Council. They now aim to get the resource consent completed (with heaps of HBRC guidance) and filed by April 2010 … a delay of six months at least.
Meanwhile, the Regional Council will go ahead with its purchase of some 197 hectares in CHB (nearby the oxidation ponds) so that purchase agreements with current landowners do not expire … and trees can be planted on the sites starting next June.
In proceeding with the land acquisition, the Regional Council is accepting the risk — slight as they think it is — that the resource consent might not be approved (by an independent hearings commissioner), leaving HBRC with the land, but no solution to the CHB wastewater disposal issue.
The scheme is still meritorious, and HBRC and CHB deserve credit for hatching it. But someone fell asleep at the switch, and now the Regional Council finds itself in an awkward position, and with six months wasted.
The situation underscores two points BayBuzz has made before …
1. Committed citizen activists like Renouf usually know what they’re talking about!
2. Constant vigilance is required to keep Council projects moving and accountable. “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.”
So, folks concerned about the quality of the Tukituki, stay vigilant. Keep your eyes open over the next six months … and mark April 2009 on your calendars for completion of the resource consent application.
P.S. What is it with wastewater and Councils anyway?! Word is that Hastings’ brand new sewage treatment system isn’t working properly. Stay tuned on this one also.