Stormwater bylaw proposal churns up debate

LIBBY WILSON
Last updated 10:17 18/07/2014

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Debate has surged around a bylaw proposal for stormwater for Hamilton City - staff say it would help them solve a number of network issues, but councillors remain unconvinced.

The Hamilton City Council manages city stormwater under a discharge consent from the Waikato Regional Council and must reduce the risk of contaminants getting into the waterways.

A previous report from council staff said a bylaw would help them do this more efficiently and was standard in other councils.

Spills within the city were council responsibility and could damage the wastewater system, assets manager for city waters Emily Botje said at a workshop on Tuesday.

The regional council only had to step in once the spill "hits the river", by which time the damage had been done.

A bylaw would legally allow city council staff on to private property to find spills, and give them authority to stop them faster, she said.

"At the moment we can stand on the fence and go, ‘There's something spilling over there' but we can't actually go in," she said.

If homeowners were present they could be asked for permission, but in the case of past spills the council had to enlist help from the regional council and other agencies.

"It would be a lot easier if we could see it occurring and go straight to the property owner and rectify it, rather than having to get a third party involved."

Botje also said a bylaw would set out rules and responsibilities for property owners and be accompanied by an education campaign.

But councillor Dave Macpherson thought community education and a reporting hotline for problems would solve the "lion's share" of issues. "It seems like a sledgehammer to crack a walnut, the bylaw."

Botje said a bylaw would help recover costs, such as in a historic case where a house pile was put through a stormwater pipe, or when stormwater grates were stolen to use as barbecue grills.

Without a bylaw it could be a "huge, long, drawn-out process".

But councillor Andrew King felt that wasn't justification.

"Everybody else in the real world out there has to take legal action or small claims court or whatever it takes to recover their money."

A further report on why staff want a bylaw will be presented to the strategy and policy committee in September for a decision.

libby.wilson@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

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