Laws criticises QLDC waste water application

Michael Laws
Michael Laws
An Otago regional Councillor says giving permission to the Queenstown Lakes District Council to pollute the wider district's waterways is ''not an option''.

The district council has applied to the regional body for a discretionary, district-wide network consent to discharge wastewater overflows to pristine lakes, rivers and creeks, or on to land in circumstances where it may enter them, for a 35-year term.

It requested the application, under the Resource Management Act 1991, be publicly notified.

However, Cr Michael Laws said in a statement the district council's primary responsibility was to focus on its infrastructure which was not ''up to scratch''.

''Gifting them the ability to pollute the lakes and waterways of our region is not an option.

''The onus must go on them to identify and immediately remedy any potential pollution outfalls.

''We have one environment.

''That remarkable environment is also the basis of the Lakes' dynamic economy.

''You don't compromise - because to do so risks both economy and environment.

''And there is no way that our Dunstan community will accede to degrading the lifestyle that drew us all here,'' he said.

District council senior planning engineer Mark Baker said the council did have ''robust processes'' to investigate and respond to overflow incidents - which could not be entirely prevented.

However, its issues were largely driven by blockages in the 421km network of pipes, caused by ''foreign objects'' like wet wipes, sanitary items and building materials, fat build-up, or tree roots compromising the system.

Blockages led to a build-up of pressure which could cause wastewater to overflow, typically from manholes or pump stations.

It was not a new or proposed occurrence, but it was not authorised under the RMA, and the consent sought to address that.

Wastewater overflow data collected between July 2015 and November 2018 listed 206 events, of which 30 were deemed ''choke only'', or a constriction which did not result in an overflow.

Seventeen overflows reached water.

A total of 49 identified tree roots as a cause, 26 were caused by foreign objects and 15 by fat or fat build-up.

Mr Baker said education about ''what should and shouldn't be put into the wastewater system'' would be an ongoing focus, but if overflows could not happen at pump stations and manholes, there was a risk wastewater could ''blow back'' into private property through toilets, showers and sinks.

That could result in ''greater direct adverse impacts to human health'' than if it occurred at a manhole or pump station, he said.

Additionally, the council planned to spend $105million on its ''relatively young'' wastewater network between 2018 and 2028.

Forty-five percent of that was providing for growth which was a ''significant concern'' due to pressure being put on the council's infrastructure.

Mr Baker said having a wastewater network discharge consent was still ''relatively rare'' for councils in New Zealand and identifying the need for one was ''indicative of council's increasing maturity and its desire to apply industry best practice in its operations and maintenance, as well as infrastructure planning''.

Public submissions on the council's application close on July 12.

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