Another council putting poos into our rivers, and fighting for their right to keep on doing it

What is it with local councils who seem to think they have a right to keeping pouring poos into our rivers.

The Palmerston North City Council is even fighting in court to continue to do it…spending millions to keep on doing it when they would have been better to spend the money on fixing the problems.

Palmerston North ratepayers and river lovers would be right to ponder whether money is being spent in the right places to reduce whatever harm the city’s wastewater discharge is doing to the Manawatu River.

It’s been more than three years now since Horizons Regional Council first blew the whistle.

Its monitoring found the discharge was causing what was loosely referred to as a significant adverse effect on aquatic life downstream of the discharge.

The phrase was used as a condition on the city’s discharge consent, and the possibly sloppy drafting has proven to be something of a mind bender as people try to figure out what it means.

Confident of its own interpretation, and of the fact that the city was breaching the condition, Horizons issued an abatement notice on the city council in October 2011.

The city council appealed.   

That seemed like a reasonable thing to do at the time, for the potential penalty was $600,000, and nobody quite knew how to stop whatever damage was being done.

City council chief executive Paddy Clifford said the city could not countenance working with Horizons to analyse the problem, the extent of the problem, the cause of the problem and possible solutions while it had that “sword of Damocles” hanging over it.

As well as the up-front fine, there was a possibility of fines of up to $10,000 a day being imposed for every day or part of a day that the offending continued.

It is now almost certain that it takes a fortnight or so of low flows before algae reaches a mass that starts changing the river environment enough to amount to a breach. It can happen for maybe a few weeks, certainly not months, each summer.

It’s a lot of money, but to put it in perspective, the review of consent conditions being heard by resource management commissioners is costing more than $750,000.

That does not count the costs of monitoring and investigations by the two councils so far, nor the proposed $2.9 million investment in a disc filter to remove particulate phosphorus from the wastewater. Nor the cost of clearing sludge out of the settling ponds, nor the $7m for closing Ashhurst, Longburn, Linton discharge points and piping all the city’s wastewater to Totara Rd.

Nor the prospect of commissioners finding nitrogen extraction, at a possible cost of $17m, is what is required.

Those of us who have been watching closely have a bit of a sinking feeling about what will be accomplished.

It is time these polluting ratbags were held to account.


– Manawatu Standard

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.