Unsurprising result in poll on water quality, but Fish & game misses obvious cause of pollution

Unsurprising result in a recent poll on water quality, but Fish & Game misses obvious target of pollution.

River and lake pollution has been been ranked as one of the country’s top concerns in a public opinion poll.

The Colmar Brunton poll surveyed a thousand New Zealanders, 75 percent of which said they were extremely or very concerned about the pollution of waterways.

The cost of living was the only issue which trumped river and lake pollution, worrying 77 percent of those surveyed.

Fish and Game chief executive Martin Taylor said over the past year alone concerns had grown and would continue to stay relevant to the New Zealand public.

“When you can’t swim in Lake Taupō because of the toxic alert it remains in front of the public eye.

“When you have to cancel an international sporting event in Taupō because of water quality, when Lake Ellesmere is so toxic that it’s going to kill your pet – it will remain in the public eye,” he said.

Mr Taylor said 2018 needed to be the year of change from both the government and the corporate dairy industry.

I do wish Fish & game would also have a crack at useless councils who allow towns to discharge sewage into rivers.

A case in point if the failed sewage plants at Waipawa and Waipukurau. I have highlighted those two plants discharging into the Tukituki River before and even had one council staffer threaten to sue me if I didn’t shut up. They also told me that their systems are world beating…but have now been found to be unfit for purpose. Despite 10 years of failure the local councils have their heads in the sand.

Here is what they emailed me in August 2016:

Hello Cam…or whoever is filling your role at the moment,

I would like to draw to your attention that the Waipawa discharge has some of the cleanest discharge of any wastewater in NZ at the moment. The Ecoli levels are well below 1,000cfu/100ml when they leave the plant before entering the river. I wonder whether there could be some refrain from such specifics as Waipawa as this is completely incorrect and impossible for this to be the contamination source.

Your blog is widely read and to have commercially impacting content for our company is not appreciated. I know there is some ongoing political rumblings about the CHBDC itself that I am not talking about that, but the treatment plant of Waipawa as a standalone.

Can you please give advice to (Teknonym?) in this matter it would be good.

And in May 2015:

Good afternoon Cam,

This press release was out today:… http://www.nzherald.co.nz/hawkes-bay-today/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503462&objectid=11449253

I have obviously tried to keep you informed as best as I can without sending you the actual spread sheets. We have had tannins and organics in the water which blinded the sand filters so we had to include an intermediate filtration step to remove these before the sand filter…If you are ever down that way I could take you for a tour through the plant and explain it? We have still saved the rate payer serious money even with these additions.

I know there is the argument out there about irrigating onto land but science in countries that have been doing it for a while are starting to see adverse effects in many cases and are not so positive about that anymore. Rotorua is a good example. They have been irrigating up in the forest for years and now it is leaching back into the lake…the leaching will continue for years now even if they turn the sprinklers off today.

The water quality we are getting in Waipawa is extremely good by international wastewater treatment standards. To look at the final effluent you cant tell the difference between tap water and the wastewater. We have stuck to our belief that we could achieve one of the highest effluent quality standards set in NZ and we are succeeding and pleased about that because it was a very hard ask.

Back to comparing realities we can use Auckland as an example. In Waipawa we are sending 1,300,000 litres a day of extremely clean wastewater into the river. It will have no adverse effects on the environment…Auckland discharge 300,000,000L of what is considered very well treated wastewater by international standards, into the Manukau Harbour. This effluent is more than 20x more polluted than Waipawa and at 230x the volume. That is 4,600 x more pollution daily….as an example for you.

I am on the same page as you seem to be about the environment, in a realistic manner, without being one of these non-performing pretenders that goes about hugging trees…serious the trees don’t care whether they get hugs or not. The waterways of NZ are not in a good shape in some areas and it is a big elephant in the room and has $Billions attached to clean up and that is what environmentalist should focus on. In reality also there have been water samples taken in the Waipoua forest during rain events that deem the water polluted…there are no people in there (much?) so you have to be balanced as to what we are measuring.

If you want to know more about more about Waipawa I can tell you as much as commercially possible and would take you through the process if you wish and the council agree.

I trust you are happy about this good outcome.

If all was sweet and perfect then why does the council now have at least an $11 million bill to fix it all?

Fixing the new wastewater plants in Waipukurau and Waipawa is likely to cost ratepayers between $11.9 million and $20.2m, according to a new report.

The wastewater plants that dump treated sewage into the Tukituki River in Hawke’s Bay won’t work the way they are supposed to and the council that has spent $8.4 million on them has held “confidential discussions” with their designers.

The new plants use floating wetlands and were finished in 2013-14 at a cost of $6.4m. Central Hawke’s Bay District Council has spent a further $2m trying to get them to work better since then.

The plants have not been able to meet resource consent conditions for ammonia levels entering the river and have breached E.coli levels several times with exceptionally high readings. In July the council pleaded guilty to exceeding resource consent conditions at the Waipawa plant and commissioned an independent review into the plants.

Which is what I was saying all along. The waste plants are rooted, and the council and their contractors were covering it all up.

So, whilst there is some merit in Fish and Game’s claims, let’s also look at town discharge and start levying some pretty massive fines against actual polluters.


-Fairfax, RNZ

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