Prosecute the polluting councils

Simon Lusk, with Bruce and Mabo who seem disinterested with all the fuss of photos when they'd rather be hunting

Simon Lusk, with Bruce and Mabo who seem disinterested with all the fuss of photos when they’d rather be hunting

Councils are supposed to uphold by-laws and they do against their own ratepayers.

Recently we say a farmer prosecuted for polluting a stream because of his ham-fisted method of willow tree extraction. Farmers and businesses are regularly prosecuted as well by councils when unauthorised or exceesive discharges are made into stream and rivers.

But what do you do when the polluter is the council, and the Regional Council above them refuses to prosecute them.

That is what is happening in the Hawkes Bay where the Central Hawkes Bay District Council is continually breaching sewage discharge permits and has been for more than 10 years.

If it was a farmer they would have been hauled before the courts and prosecuted and fined massive amounts of money…but not this crowd.

The Central Hawke’s Bay District Council could face private prosecution of its members over failures of its wastewater system.

The council is in breach of discharge consents which have been in place just three months.

The possibility of the prosecutions has been raised by Friends of the Tukituki spokesman and political campaigner Simon Lusk, who told Radio New Zealand if the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council would not prosecute, then the group would look at prosecuting CHB councillors and Regional Council staff, Mr Lusk says, are “failing to uphold their statutory obligations”.

CHB Mayor Peter Butler said “they” had threatened the council with prosecution before, and council chief executive John Freeman said he received a letter from the group last month. “My understanding is you can’t prosecute against individuals on the council,” Mr Freeman said. He said the two councils and the Friends of the Tukituki “all want the same outcome” – to ensure the river is free of any unwanted discharge.

“Any prosecution would be a distraction and a waste of time and money which would be better spent ensuring it [the system] is up and running properly,” Mr Freeman said. Regional council staff have decided against prosecuting the council despite six breaches of the discharge consents since they came into effect in October.

I bet a farmer couldn’t get away with six breaches. If the Regional Council, ironically who have a plan to pollute the same river to make it undrinkable and toxic, won’t prosecute then perhaps a private prosecution wouldn’t go amiss.

The district council is intent on resolving the issues as soon as possible, and is installing new clarifying systems to help ensure its Waipawa and Waipukurau wastewater plants, where $6 million was spent on floating wetlands installation, meet new treatment standards.

The wetlands were constructed in 2013 at the Waipawa plant off Pourerere, just east of the town, and which discharges via Bush Drain to the Waipawa River, a tributary to the Tukituki River, while the Waipukurau system discharges into the Tukituki from the town’s oxidation pond. A regional council report in December revealed harmful bacteria and wastewater were being released from the redeveloped wastewater plant into the Tukituki River at unacceptable levels.

Farmers aren’t allowed to dump shit int eh river, why should the council.

Their claims of resolving the issues as soon as possible are laughable…they’ve had 10 years.

This week it said nothing had improved and the Central Hawke’s Bay District Council was now in breach of its resource consent.

Mr Freeman said that initially it was thought problems were being caused by a block in the filters.

But it was discovered an additive used to aid phosphorous removal had been causing a “sticky material” known as floc, that glues sand grains together and causes blockages.

“We’ve tried several avenues to stop this from happening, and while they have reduced the blockages, they haven’t completely eliminated the problem,” he said.

This is just stupidity on┬áthe┬ácouncil’s part…sewage treatment isn’t rocket science, and the excuse above is risible, it is basic chemistry that the experts should have been aware of.


– HB Today


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  • sandalwood789

    Unforgivable – yet we see a farmer in Taranaki fined $40,000 for not wearing a helmet on his farm-bike while on his farm.

    It’s a crazy old world.

  • peterwn

    Various points here:
    1. When a council prosecutes itself or one prosecutes another, lawyers are the winners and ratepayers are the losers.
    2. There is a big difference between individuals/ companies and councils. A farmer for example can comply fairly quickly as a last resort by selling off his herd. A council generally has difficulty complying if more sewage / stormwater presents itself than anticipated, there is a major failure in a reasonably designed sewage plant, or if someone ‘poisons’ the sewage.
    3. As the CEO indicated, it is unlikely that individual councillors could be sued. The former Auckland regional Council tried to sue the directors of a company responsible for an environmental breach and it did not get past first base. The cost of defending a suit against individual councillors would come out of the ratepayers’ pockets, not the councillors’ own pockets. If councillors were personally liable and councils were unable to indemnify them, potential candidates would decline nomination.
    4. Perhaps the best way to resolve the issue is for the Government to sideline the councillors and appoint a commissioner. Presumably Simon would have a sufficient political killer instinct to facilitate pulling this off. This would avoid ratepayers bearing the deadweight cost of legal action (whether it be legal fees or fines). The commissioner could then take what ever action is needed to sort things out.

  • Don W

    Isn’t the RMA supposed to stop this sort of carry on.By allowing their sewage to pollute this river ,which is affecting other peoples lives, isn’t that a violation of property rights . It must be close to being a trespass of their sewage invading other peoples property.

    • peterwn

      RMA can minimise issues occurring but cannot ‘stop’ things just like King Canute (who suffered a set-up similar to David Shearer’s ‘snapper’ incident) could not stop the tide.

      • Don W

        If common law and property right were upheld Councils wouldn’t be able to pollute rivers at will. In the mid 1800s Birmingham was putting sewage into a river . An estate owner challenged this as this river went through his property it was killing the fish and he couldn’t use the river for his stock . The judge held up his rights and he won.

  • essiep

    Councils breaching their consents which are often quite lax compared to farmers makes me angry. I personally know of two farmers who have now got criminal convictions which affect travel, etc. In both cases the breaches were relatively minor & inadvertent. If they had received a fine I would have no problem. I would like to see a real study that shows where the pollution is coming from. I think farmers are not blameless but my gut feeling is that other sources – in particular councils – are getting away with murder at present.

  • Murray Smith

    Sauce for the goose, should be sauce for the gander. Unfortunately, the gander holds the ingredients in their own hidden cupboard.

  • cows4me

    This is what this country is turning into where those in power give the fingers to the law while the common citizen is fair game. The longer those in power get away with this rubbish the greater the risk that our so called corruption free society will become very corrupt.

  • Disinfectant

    This is a very good reason why we should have an Independent Crown prosecution service and not rely on the Police or the Local Authority to bring prosecutions.

    • peterwn

      NZ already does – Crown Law. But prosecution services do not have investigation branches. But on the other hand would people want an independent environmental prosecution service that harasses people dealing with dangerous or diseased trees on their own land.

  • rua kenana

    10 years???
    In fact the Waipawa and Waipuk councils have been at it for far longer than 10 years. The Tukituki has been going downhill since about the late 1950’s (I used to live right on it) due to those councils dumping more and more of their sewage into the river because they were so obsessed with getting more and people into their towns they couldn’t afford or be bothered with trivial (to them) stuff like decent sewage disposal. And stuff the the poor suckers downstream. They were just nimby’s who should put up with it in the name of progress.

  • kehua

    Auckland Council are responsible through their roadside berm mowing for the wholesale spreading of undesirable weeds like Onoin weed, Camomile Daisy and Carrot weed. It has reached epidemic proportion in much of the Nor-West and Northern parts of Auckland and Rodney. The Council are imposing huge cost on Landowners who are having to spend not inconsiderable amounts of money just to maintain quality grazing, unfortuanately lad banked land and ignorant landowners are also exacerbating the situation now that it is almost out of control. Council need to own the problem for they it only started after the mowing began.