Dunedin family of 13 is elated the city council has stepped
in to help after what they say has been years of inaction
over sewage-contaminated water seeping into their property
after heavy rain.
Nika and Shannah Taburuea's home sits on a low point of
School St, beside the Kaikorai Stream, not far from where one
of the city's few remaining sewer overflows empties into the
stream in wet weather.
Mrs Taburuea said that after heavy downpours, the stream
flooded their section - about twice a year - with water
flowing up to doors and under the house.
The family's toilet, fitted with a no-return valve, also
stopped working during flooding, she said.
This was a major problem with 11 children aged between 1 and
16 still at home. Their eldest daughter lives in Auckland.
The house was becoming so damp some of the children had
developed health problems, she said.
Several times Mrs Taburuea had seen sewage floating out of
the stream and into their property.
She had called the council many times about it in the six
years they had lived there, but until last week there had
been no action, she said.
''We've been told we shouldn't be staying here, but with so
many of us, it's hard to find somewhere to go.''
The last straw was at Easter, when water came into a sleepout
behind the house, where some of the family slept, after Good
Failing to get any response to three calls made to the
council, Mrs Taburuea emailed chief executive Sue Bidrose in
To her surprise, Dr Bidrose and water and waste group manager
Laura McElhone turned up on her doorstep a few days later.
Dr McElhone said she and Dr Bidrose explained to the family
the many factors contributing to the problem.
Compounding the fact the sewer overflow was nearby was that
the sewer main in the area was prone to overload because
stormwater was entering from historic and illegal
connections, and groundwater was leaking through cracks in
the aged pipes.
The property was also on the end of a common drainage scheme,
so while water from neighbouring properties flowed towards
the stream, it could pool at their house if the stream was at
The council recognised sewer overflows were unacceptable and
aimed to remove them all, Dr McElhone said.
The waste and stormwater pipelines in the Kaikorai area were
scheduled to be replaced during the next 15-20 years, which
would remove the need for the overflow.
Some sections had been prioritised and would be done within
two to three years, which should stop most of the overflow
In the meantime, the council had given the family two $150
chemical toilets to use when the house toilet stopped.
It would also investigate options such an installing a tank
on site where sewage from the house could be stored when the
toilet stopped, and pumped away once the sewer had capacity
Dr McElhone said the council would pay for such a measure
because the Taburueas were paying drainage rates and should
therefore expect to have their waste water drain away.
Other options such as raising the house were discussed, which
the family would have to pay for, although they could
possibly repay it through a targeted rate scheme, subject to
approval by the council.
The council would also look at the stream's capacity, pinch
points and planting, to see if anything could be done to
All were only options to be considered, and the family would
be kept informed.
Dr Bidrose said she had visited the family because they were
ratepayers in a particularly unusual and difficult situation,
given the house's location and the size of the family.
Ratepayers paid council staff to provide a service, and when
things went wrong, special attention should be paid by staff,
Mrs Taburuea was impressed with the response.