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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  • Michael_l_c

    Yet another example of a council & councillors thinking they can do whatever they want & get away with it. The council being fined will result in the ratepayers paying. Make the councillors personally liable for the continuation of the pollution. Suddenly they will pay attention

  • Yeahright

    Isn’t the Manawatu river one of the three dirtiest in the country?? I bet the council members don’t swim in the river.

    • Michael_l_c

      Maybe they should be required to on a daily basis, full immersion.

  • Cadwallader

    I have swum in the Manawatu on and off for years…admittedly upstream from the swear farm. It is not a dirty river other than in the minds of the pollution police who seem to inhabit the Greenies Party.

    • Cadwallader

      Ought to read sewar farm, the “swear” farm is my place!

  • Chris

    If this was a farmer and this sort of thing was happening, the regional Council would shut them down, then take them to court and they would be fined many thousands of dollars.
    Why the double standards? Why does the PN City Council sort the problem out like any good law abiding group should?

  • Peter

    Taupo city took all of its waste water out of the Waikato some years ago. The solution: irrigate the waste water onto land. They have two areas totaling around 180ha, with around 1000 cubic metres per hour in the peak season being irrigated to land. They grow haylige and sell it. It makes around $1.2m per annum, which covers a good deal of the operating costs….. Waste water is basically water+ nutrients so it all makes sense really. Plenty of land down around P North suitable for irrigation.

    • CouchKumara

      Unfortunately this would require some entrepreneurial acumen of which city councils lack. They only know how to spend money, not create it.

  • cows4me

    This whole situation highlights the total stupidity of so called laws in this country and how they only apply to the little people . The regional council does it’s nuts and tells the council to stop tipping crap into the river. The council tells the regional council to get stuffed because they won’t be paying any fine, that’s the ratepayers job. Meanwhile rural ratepayers are paying for their own systems and subsidizing the gold plated system the council will eventually pick.

  • Peter

    Around 90% of towns and cities in NZ dump their waste water into waterways. Basically tipping out a valuable nutrient resource. Treated waste water includes about 50mg/l of Nitrogen. Plant biomass (dry weight) includes about 3% Nitrogen, so each litre of waste water could potentially create around 1.7grams of biomass. Not much you think?. In a city generating around 10 million litres of treated waste water per day, this equates to around 17 tonnes of dry biomass per day…. So in a growing season of 200 days this is around 3400 tonnes of biomass. At a basic feed cost of 22c per kg, this has an economic value of around $750k per annum. So basically each city in NZ is tipping around three quarters of a million dollars of base potential economic benefit into our waterways each season.Over 50 cities that adds up to around $37.5M per season….