Talk-fests fail to address storm-water issue

The banks of the Silver Stream, opposite a storm-water discharge pipe, are eroded following last...
The banks of the Silver Stream, opposite a storm-water discharge pipe, are eroded following last July's floods. PHOTO: BRIAN MILLER
Is the DCC breaching the regional  plan, asks  Brian Miller.

I must confess to fitting the ``failed council candidate'' (ORC) label, as given to Paul Pope, by ORC councillor Michael Laws (ODT 3.5.18). But I do not see any reason why I or Paul Pope should not continue to be active in our communities.

Many talk-fests have been held with the Taieri community - by the ORC, Dunedin City Council and community board - about the Taieri floods of recent times.

One issue that they have failed to address is Mosgiel's urban storm water, which is pumped into the Silver Stream, when the Silver Stream has breached its banks below Gordon Rd and continues to flood farmland and the many houses in Dukes and Riccarton Rds, and beyond.

Rules of the regional plan, 12.4: Water for Otago, which classify the discharge of storm water to water, appear to have been conveniently overlooked by the three elected organisations. More about that later.

The DCC is working to improve the Mosgiel storm-water network by upgrading the Reid Ave and Carlyle Rd pump stations.

It has been assessed that the new pumps will discharge around three times more storm water than the current pumps. In the meantime, until the new upgrade is completed, the council will use three mobile pump units to support the current pumps.

Centre St-Hagart Alexander Dr also have a storm-water pumping station into the Silver Stream to assist the Mosgiel East residential area.

Rule 12.4.1 of the regional plan, water, classifies the discharge of storm water to water as a permitted activity provided that certain conditions are met. These conditions, among others, include that: the discharge does not contain any human sewage (Mosgiel's stormwater regularly contains human waste during heavy flooding); the discharge does not cause flooding of any other person's property, erosion, land instability, sedimentation or property damage; and does not produce conspicuous oil or grease films, scum or foam, or floatable or suspended materials or objectionable odours.

The ORC and DCC have no set controls on Mosgiel's storm-water pumping into the Silver Stream. They operate on a flow basis. If the storm water is flowing, the pumps are in operation. By the very fact that storm water is being pumped into, and added to the Silver Stream water while it breaches its banks on to farmland, means this added storm water assists in causing flooding and damage on other people's property.

The ORC rules stipulate discharge is not to cause erosion. The attached photo shows erosion caused by the Centre St-Hagart Alexander Dr pumping station in the July 17 flood. No attempt by the council, or the ORC has been made to repair it.

If the conditions outlined in rule 12.4.1 are not met then the discharge of storm water to water will be classified as a restricted discretionary activity requiring resource consent. The question was asked at the Mosgiel Taieri Community Board meeting (May 4) by board member Maurice Prendergast to the council's three waters group manager.

The reply was no. The council and its staff must be either oblivious to the regional rules 12.4, or don't care what happens to the Mosgiel storm water once it hits the Silver Stream.

The ORC, whose chairman is one of the two elected representatives for the area, appears to have done nothing to force the DCC to adhere to rules 12.4.

The one action which does appear to happen after each major flood, is for a helicopter ride over the flooded areas, followed by another talk-fest.

Is it any wonder the rural community scratch their heads when they read of a dairy farmer who is fined thousands of dollars for breaching a regional water plan rule, yet a continual blind eye is cast by the ORC on the city council, which continues to abuse the regional rules 12.4.

The upgrading of the Mosgiel storm-water network is planned to increase its capacity three times greater than at present, including when the Silver Stream is breaching its banks.

Is there a simple answer? Yes there is. That could be another story.

I write this in continual frustration of the attempts that I have made to talk with senior ORC staff, who refuse to discuss this issue. Maybe one of the successful ORC candidates will earn their keep and actually do something about the DCC flouting the rules. Should I hold my breath?

- Brian Miller is a former Mosgiel-Taieri Community Board member.


Add a Comment