Council's stormwater system neglect 'dirty little secret' - Federated Farmers

The Invercargill City Council has applied to Environment Southland for resource consent to discharge storm water to five ...
ROBYN EDIE/STUFF

The Invercargill City Council has applied to Environment Southland for resource consent to discharge storm water to five freshwater waterways throughout the city, at multiple discharge points. At the submissions hearing at the Kelvin Hotel, on Thursday afternoon, were Federated Farmers representatives David Rose, left, and Darryl Sycamore.

The state of the Invercargill City Council's stormwater system has been called a "dirty little secret" that has been allowed to exist for years.

Federated Farmers had a crack at both the city council and Environment Southland about the city's stormwater system at a resource consent hearing on Thursday.

Federated Farmers executive David Rose, at the hearing, said: "It was a revelation to us, this dirty little secret in Invercargill hidden from Invercargill ratepayers, how rundown the stormwater system is". 

At the submissions hearing at the Kelvin Hotel, on Thursday afternoon, were, from left, ICC Stantec principal ...
ROBYN EDIE/STUFF

At the submissions hearing at the Kelvin Hotel, on Thursday afternoon, were, from left, ICC Stantec principal environment scientist Sue Bennett, water operations technologist Adrian Cocker, ICC drainage and solid waste manager Malcolm Loan, and council legal adviser Michael Morris.

"The ratepayers of Invercargill are our cousins, our family and our friends. It's a big shock to the farming community also."

In the council's own evidence, it accepts stormwater was contaminated with sewage, Rose said. 

The council has applied to discharge water and contaminants from stormwater systems into surface water bodies and into open drains, for a term of 35 years. 

A total of 147 discharge pipes draining to the Waikiwi Stream, Waihopai River, Otepuni Stream, Kingswell Creek and Clifton Channel are covered by the application. 

But Environment Southland says the consent should be turned down, because receiving waters and the New River Estuary will be effected. 

Environment Southland principal consents officer Stephen West's report says, "With the known sewage contamination of the stormwater network, including the engineered overflow points, it is likely that the discharges will have more than minor adverse effect on the environment".

Effects on water quality within the receiving waters and in the New River Estuary appeared to be more than minor, it says. 

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Even if the hearing commissioners found discharges were not contrary to the Regional Water Plan and proposed Southland Water and Land Plan, the application could fail in terms of the Resource Management Act, West says. 

West recommended the application be declined under sections of the Resource Management Act. 

Federated Farmers senior regional policy advisor Darryl Sycamore says it would be inappropriate for the regional council to approve a discharge consent with a 35-year term, before a proposed Water and Land Plan is completed. 

Instead, they asked that the hearings panel approve the consent application to a five- to seven-year term. 

Nine per cent of the network was 100 years old, or more, he said. 

Federated Farmers were  "disappointed" by the lack of forward planning by the city council with respect to the aged piped network.

"The lack of enforcement action by Environment Southland has allowed the city to turn a blind eye to the magnitude of the issue."

Sycamore said the city council needed to "step up and take ownership of the issue, rather than just burying their heads in the sand". 

"Our members are disillusioned by the lack of leadership to address such a fundamental issue," Sycamore said. 

Rose said it was only recently that the organisation became aware of the problem. 

Speaking in the hearing intermission, city council drainage and solid waste manager Malcolm Loan said the council was looking for a long-term improvement. 

"We could spend a lot of money very quickly and not address the issue, which is contamination." 

The other issue was that many contaminants were in people's properties, he said.  

"The answer to the issue is not just council going out and spending a whack of money from rates, but it's potentially requiring council to go out and ask property owners to spend more money.

"When you find sewage in stormwater, we track it up, and where we find the source, we expect them to fix it," he said. 

"That's going to be an issue." 

Loan's submission says the system's renewals were programmed to avoid failure of the networks, and to ensure the possibility of cross-contamination was reduced. 

By 2022, drainage infrastructure budgets would amount to 35 per cent of the sewerage budget and 65 per cent of the stormwater budget, it says. 

Farmer Rosemary Hamilton, who made a submission, said the city council needed better plans for testing and mitigation of substances and sewage into the drainage system. 

It needed to be brought into line with national standards, she says.

"The ratepayers need to be made fully aware of the serious state of the city's drainage system," Hamilton says. 

"They should also be aware that the existing drainage system was established over a 100 years ago, and that it is seriously deteriorating, creating contamination to the environment." 

The city council already holds discharger permits authorising discharges of stormwater and contaminants to the affected waters. 

Its application was publicly notified on October 3 last year and 11 submissions were received. 

The hearing is expected to continue on Friday.

 

 - Stuff

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