Back in June 2009, having made a submission to the Napier City Council, I then wrote a post about Napier’s infrastructure shortcomings, titled When will the s**t hit the fan? 

Now that post was about Napier’s sewage and stormwater disposal problems, which were candidly reviewed in an appendix on water system issues, required at the time as part of each council’s LTP documentation. Somehow, the candor in this appendix managed to slip by the sanitising eyes and ‘Delete’ keys of then-ruling Mayor Arnott and chief executive Neil Taylor.

In view of the current Dalton/Jack regime’s histrionics over supposedly unfair treatment by the Local Government Commission regarding lagging infrastructure spending (with the focus this time on roads), I thought it might help the debate to remind the Napier parties involved of their own  assessment of the dilapidated state of their wastewater handling systems.

Here’s the pertinent part of that original post (and submission) … and indeed the question remains: When will the s**t hit the fan?!

“…the “biggest ticket” item in the Napier LTCCP that I find alarming is the state of Napier’s sewage and stormwater systems.

As cheery and upbeat as the LTCCP documents are regarding all other aspects of the Napier good life, we find the extreme opposite in the discussions of Napier’s waste!

The NCC would have us consider that the cost of kerbside recycling is the paramount “waste” issue, when in fact the far more serious – and expensive – issues relate to managing Napier’s stormwater and sewage.

It goes well beyond the scope of this submission to comment fully on what appears to be the quite fragile and over-taxed state of Napier’s stormwater and sewage systems. The documents give the impression that NCC is triaging its spending against rising needs, as opposed to fronting up fully – and being honest with ratepayers – about the inherent risks and costs associated with living in a low-lying area that requires constant pumping of all wastes, posing public health risks as well as increasing threats to the integrity of the underlying aquifer that supplies drinking water.

From the LTCCP:

• Infill development, which is assumed to account for 53% of Napier’s growth in coming years, is projected to increase stormwater run-off three times.

• Although stormwater run-off is impacting the environmentally sensitive Ahuriri Estuary, industrial development is envisioned for the adjacent Lagoon Farm.

• Listing stormwater items in need of funding, the LTCCP observes: “Each of the items requires a significant expenditure exceeding six years of the accumulated annual stormwater pipe upgrading budget to achieve any significant benefit to the area.”

• Parts of Bayview, and all of Jervoistown and Meeanee, have no reticulated sewage systems (and no plans to provide such) and rely on on-site septic systems … in the face of more stringent regulation of on-site systems (many of which are known to be sub-standard) about to issue from the Regional Council, if not from central Government.

• Meantime, NCC hopefully awaits confirmation that an unproven Hastings waste treatment system, which has plenty of critics, will indeed pass muster and represent a solution that Napier can embrace.

• Says the LTCCP: “Both the Latham and Greenmeadows sewerage systems are overtaxed during periods of wet weather.”

• Referring to the difficulty of monitoring the degrading of pipes by wastewater and sewage, the LTCCP observes: “The relatively recent usage of in-line cameras has both provided the means to investigate, but has also revealed the potential extent of problems.”

• And commenting further on the system: “It should be noted that the proposed renewal budget, based on the current set of standard economical lives that is used, is not sufficient to meet the long-term decline in service potential.”

I could go on. The overall impression … the s**t could hit the fan at any time!

One wonders whether Councillors have even bothered to read this material, let alone appreciate its implications. Were I a Napier Councillor, this situation would terrify me. I would be demanding an outside review of Napier’s stormwater and wastewater systems. And by “outside review” I mean independent peer review by experts who are not presently on the NCC teat as employees or consultants. An independent “report card” should be issued to the public.

These systems appear neglected, and their improvement under-funded, while this Council stands by and asserts its financial prudence. These are arguably the most vital systems and services that NCC provides its residents. If they are literally “going under,” the Mayor and Councillors should be held accountable, and of course the LTCCP spending levels should be modified accordingly.”

One might reasonably ask: Has anything changed since 2009? Other than building a sewage treatment plant, that like the Hastings plant, passes its remaining effluent over ‘sacred rocks’ on its way into Hawke Bay.

Short-changing maintenance of roads might be just the tip of the iceberg over at NCC. A situation that begs for accountability regardless of where one stands on amalgamation.

Although I can’t help asking … Doesn’t all the fussing and fuming of consultants and councils over ‘who’s got the numbers right?’ in and of itself underscore the case for amalgamation? It’s simply ridiculous — third worldly — that we are having such a bun fight in 21st century Hawke’s Bay. Alexander the Great kept better track of his assets and supply lines when he conquered the known world by 323 BC.

And then there’s the fundamental question: Shouldn’t Hawke’s Bay residents enjoy the same level of infrastrucutre support regardless of where in the Bay they live?

Tom Belford

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1 Comment

  1. “The same level of infrastructure support no matter where they live in the bay” ? This sounds like the kind of bogus reasoning behind the electricity reforms of the 1990s, ie that economy of scale has got to be better. Wairoa at the time owned and controlled its own infrastructure – network, retailing, and even some of its own hydro generation. We were apparently too small to be allowed this, however. My electricity bill for my workshop tripled and for home doubled as a result of the control of this infrastructure being wrenched away from us.

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