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The Queenstown Lakes District Council’s decision not to fight a ruling preventing it from discharging untreated wastewater into water bodies has been welcomed by Fish & Game New Zealand.
Instead, the council is now vowing to focus on a new work programme — including a network audit, improved maintenance and public education — to stop discharges into water bodies including Lake Wakatipu.
The QLDC had been given until January 31 to decide on an appeal, after independent commissioners rejected its bid to discharge into water bodies when faults occurred.
The QLDC had hoped for a 35-year permit allowing it to discharge into Lakes Wakatipu, Wanaka, Hawea and Hayes, as well as the Kawarau, Shotover, Clutha and other rivers.
The permit would cover discharges which already occurred occasionally, and avoid legal costs, but was not about seeking "permission to pollute", QLDC property and infrastructure general manager Peter Hansby said at the time.
The application prompted 200 submissions — of which 197 were opposed — including one from Fish & Game New Zealand, criticising the application’s "unbelievable arrogance".
Yesterday, Fish & Game NZ chief executive Martin Taylor welcomed the QLDC’s decision and the decision to reject its application in the first place.
Dealing with wastewater was one of the "core responsibilities" of any council, and it was "essential" that regional councils took action to protect waterways and hold all polluters to the same standard, he said.
"It is unacceptable in modern New Zealand that a council would apply for a resource consent that would allow the discharge of storm and untreated wastewater into the central lakes.
"Infrastructure problems are only going to get worse with increasing tourism and a changing climate. Kiwis expect to be able to swim, fish and gather food from their rivers, lakes and streams."
ORC chairwoman Marian Hobbs declined to comment yesterday.
Yesterday, Mr Hansby said submissions had highlighted the lack of community support for the proposed approach, and the council would instead consider new investment to address the risk of overflows.
Mayor Jim Boult also acknowledged the community had been "very clear" about their feelings.