Pollution threat, lack of consultation concern

An artist’s impression of what Kingston’s new outlet structure, on Kingston Beach, may look like....
An artist’s impression of what Kingston’s new outlet structure, on Kingston Beach, may look like. IMAGE: SUPPLIED
The threat of water pollution oozing from a recently consented subdivision and a lack of consultation with the community has Kingston residents frustrated with the Queenstown Lakes District Council and worried about the water quality of Lake Wakatipu.

With consent for earthworks granted late last month, the council plans to build a new stormwater pipe along Oxford St with an outlet structure on Kingston Beach which discharges into Lake Wakatipu.

The project is part of a larger water infrastructure revamp in Kingston in which stormwater, wastewater and drinking water systems will be created to service a Kingston Village Ltd subdivision development of up to 950 new homes.

Kingston Community Association (KCA) chairman Steve Osborne said the existing community, which had no reticulated water or sewer system and a "pretty poor" stormwater system, had previously asked the council to consult them on proposed Three Waters projects and any other plans the council had for the town.

Despite the council publicly committing to that request, several plans, including the stormwater outlet, had been granted consent without community engagement, Mr Osborne said.

The community was deeply frustrated to find out that the council had submitted a consent application for the stormwater outlet, the site of which was designated as outstanding natural landscape, without telling residents, Mr Osborne said.

The KCA held a public meeting with council representatives after the consent was granted, so residents could voice rising concerns around the visual nature of the outlet, maintenance issues and environmental impacts.

While unease about aesthetic aspects and maintenance was largely soothed at the meeting — the council representatives explained the outlet lay flush or below ground level and the site would be reinstated with landscape planting after the work — the community challenged them to prove the design would not carry contaminants into the lake.

Mr Osborne said current Otago Regional Council rules allowed stormwater discharge into fresh water as long it did not contain conspicuous evidence of contamination, or induce significant adverse effects on aquatic life.

"It’s just not sufficient, because there’s pollution like nitrates that you can’t see."

Recent instances of visible contamination such as algal blooms and dye spills in Queenstown demonstrated there wasn’t sufficient security regarding stormwater channels that led directly to the lake, he said.

However, QLDC media officer Sam White said the design was "low-impact and responsible", and "goes further" than the council’s current code of practice design requirements. It also met direction of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater (2020).

While the earthworks consent did not warrant public notification under the Resource Management Act and the stormwater discharge was permitted under QLDC’s district plan, the council could have started talking to the Kingston community earlier, Mr White said.

"With regard to the recent community engagement on the stormwater outlet, our intention was always to discuss our design with the KCA and involve residents in key elements like landscaping and planting."

 

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