Waste discharges a risk to tourism: Laws

The police national dive squad has been using sonar equipment to search the deep waters of Lake...
Queenstown Lakes District Council wants permission to discharge wastewater overflows into some of the regions iconic waterways. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Allowing the Queenstown Lakes District Council to discharge wastewater overflows into waterways could damage the district's reputation as a tourist mecca, a regional councillor says.

Otago Regional Councillor Michael Laws has hit out at the district council over its application 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.

Cr Laws took the unusual and, he said, possibly unprecedented step of submitting against the application in his capacity as a Dunstan ward councillor.

In a statement, he said he would not have done so if he did not consider the issue "vital".

"The greatest irony is that not just the Lakes and Dunstan environment, but the directly associated local economies, will suffer.

"The boom tourism of the past decade is due, in good part, to the relatively pristine state of the Lakes-Central environment.

"You start polluting that, you destroy or impair the reputation that nature has bestowed upon we custodians, and that sustains our lifestyles, our businesses and our jobs."

He also said his previous experience as Whanganui mayor, where he oversaw a sewage treatment plant that ran foul of a regional council, made him realise that district councils "will tend to do what's expedient and cheap, rather than what's right".

He said the district council's wastewater infrastructure was not fit for purpose.

"At any stage, they could have done something to upgrade but they didn't. Even now they are prioritising other capital projects."

District council senior planning engineer Mark Baker previously 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" such as wet wipes, sanitary items and building materials.

The district council planned to spend $105million on its "relatively young" wastewater network between 2018 and 2028.

A district council spokesman said yesterday the council had provided "extensive" public comment on the application already, and would not respond directly to the statement from Cr Laws.

Public submissions on the council's application close today.


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