The pipes, the pipes, are failing?

Is Invercargill up to its neck in a stormwater problem?
Barry Harcourt

Is Invercargill up to its neck in a stormwater problem?

EDITORIAL: The rural community don't particularly enjoy the censorious tone adopted at times from townies going crook about farm-based environmental damage.

Now they're reproachfully pointing to the state of Invercargill's civic discharges.

Federated Farmers says the rundown state of the city's stormwater system is a "dirty little secret".

Much as the council retorts that the Feds are overstating the apparent decrepitude of the pipes, the fact does remain that there is a contamination issue from sewage getting into the stormwater system.

READ MORE:  Stormwater neglect a "dirty little problem".

It's the reason Environment Southland staff oppose the city's application for consent to keep discharging into the Waihopai River, Waikiwi and Otepuni streams, Kingswell creek and Clifton channel, and ultimately the estuary, for . . . oh, another 35 years if the Environment Southland hearings panel would be so kind.

Which it may not. ES staff have cited "more than minor" adverse effects sufficient to have them proposes consent be reduced to a five to seven year term, particularly since a the Water and Land Plan is still a work in progress.

The council is talking about the need for long-term improvements to be made and warns that it could spend a bunch of money on its own system without necessarily addressing the problems arising on private property.

These would be the owners' responsibility. Round about here is where more than a few property owners around town will be pursing their lips.

They may find themselves required to do some serious spending on their side of the fence, not to mention still having their ratepayers' share of improvements to the council's wider reticulation system.

But even then, they would be unwise to expect a whole heap of sympathy from their country cousins. Cry me a river, they'd say. Because they've been heavily in the gun themselves when it comes to getting their discharges act together. And it's hardly as though the pressure's coming off.

Which is part of the reason the reproach of the Federated Farmers representatives on Thursday wasn't restricted to the city fathers. By their account Environment Southland's lenience with the city has been in shabby contrast to the attentions farmers have received.

Is the city's stormwater system unfit for purpose? Partially, for sure. Nearly one tenth of it is a century old or more, on top of which we would  be unwise to conclude that age alone is necessarily the problem. The spectacular failure in 2014 of 1950s-vintage Italian pipes, which should still have been in fairly fine fettle, is a cautionary lesson there.

Council staffers will be replying, in writing and in detail, to the case raised against this latest application. Should be a page-turner.


 - Stuff


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