A CCTV inspection of the Frankton sewer pipe which was blocked recently, shows the fat (top) from households and businesses which remained in the 30cm pipe after several cleanings. Photo by QLDC.
Repeated sewage spills into Lake Wakatipu, one of the
country's top tourist and recreational attractions, should
end in prosecution for those who block the pipes,
environmental organisations say.
''In our view, nothing raises awareness, sharpens the focus,
or causes behaviour change quicker than the real prospect of
prosecution,'' Fish and Game Otago operations manager Ian
In the past year, there had been nine unauthorised spills of
sewage into Lake Wakatipu in the Queenstown, Frankton and
There had also been two this month, one at Kelvin Heights and
the other at Frankton.
Queenstown Lakes District Council infrastructure and assets
general manager Erik Barnes said six were caused by the
actions of other parties putting inappropriate material in
the sewerage system and the others were caused by problems
with tree roots, which the council considered a maintenance
The Otago Regional Council recently met the QLDC to express
its concerns about the high number of spills into the lake.
Council environmental monitoring and operations director Jeff
Donaldson said the district council needed to reduce the
number of spills by finding the causes and acting.
The regional council was not going to prosecute the district
council for the spills as they were not because of a failure
of its systems, but caused by a third party.
''When discharges to water occur, someone needs to be held
accountable so they need to ensure it is traced back to the
The district council had to make the public more aware of the
dangers of putting things down the stormwater and sewerage
system, he said.
Those were different circumstances to the council's
prosecution of dairy farmers for spills to waterways as a
farmer had control of discharges from his property, he said.
''We are not going soft on them. We are working with them.
They fully understand we don't appreciate those spills into
Other Otago towns did not face quite the same challenges as
Queenstown, which is built beside a lake and surrounded by
hills. Spills into lakes were also easier to spot compared
with those into fast-flowing rivers.
''The risk is much higher.''
The district council was always very good at reporting any
spills, Mr Donaldson said.
Mr Barnes said the council allocated $3 million to operating
and maintaining wastewater systems across the district in
this financial year on top of $5 million in capital works.
The council was looking at developing a trade waste bylaw
and, as a ''last resort'', prosecuting perpetrators.
However, with an extensive network and challenging terrain,
there would occasionally be failures, he said.
The recent overflows in central Queenstown and at Frankton
Beach were both examples of third parties putting debris in
the system which blocked sewer pipes.
Apart from the two December overflows, which involved 500 and
50 litres of wastewater respectively, the other overflows
involved minimal amounts.
The council would work closely with the regional council to
ensure overflows were as infrequent as possible, and had the
minimum adverse impact, he said.
The strategy for achieving that included increasing the
environmental consequences of putting inappropriate items
into the sewerage system and ensuring tree roots did not
become a problem, better maintenance and improving the plan
for managing the entire stormwater and wastewater assets.
Mr Hadland said it was always disappointing to hear about
discharges of pollutants to freshwater systems especially at
the height of the tourist and angling season.
''This is especially so in pristine environments such as
Queenstown Lakes area. It has a reputation for very high
water quality and the Frankton Arm is one of the most popular
areas for angling.''
There had been a lot of pressure on agriculture to improve
its performance around discharges to the environment and many
farmers had undertaken works to remove direct discharges but
more importantly lower their risk of accidental discharges to
Fish and Game was heartened to hear Queenstown Lakes had a
plan to address this but questioned whether prosecution for
negligent acts should be a last resort.