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Kokopu Connection Triggers Big Response

Kokopu Connection Triggers Big Response

May 11, 2004

Overwhelming community interest in North Shore City Council's plans to upgrade the city's drains and waterways show, once again, that residents care about their environment and are willing to pay more for its protection.

Dubbed "The Kokopu Connection", the council's community consultation programme asked people to indicate how much money should be spent on upgrading stormwater systems and on managing stormwater effects in the city. North Shore City sought public feedback before it lodged consent applications with the Auckland Regional Council (ARC).

The North Shore City community spoke up loud and clear - sending 5590 submissions to the council, endorsing plans to protect waterways and endorsing plans to upgrade stormwater systems.

This was over and above the 2,940 responses to the council's draft City Plan (long term council community plan).

The Kokopu Connection reached out to the community in different ways and asked people to rate the importance of protecting the city's streams, estuaries, beaches and Lake Pupuke.

More than 97 per cent said protecting our beaches was 'quite important' or 'very important'; nearly 94 per cent said the same for protecting streams; nearly 92 per cent wanted estuaries protected, and just over 90 per cent wanted protection of Lake Pupuke.

Resource consents project manager Jim Hodges says the consultation process also provided an opportunity to inform the public about the impact that stormwater and wastewater has on the environment, and also to measure the community's understanding of these issues.

"There seems to be a good level of understanding on matters relating to flooding, erosion and sediment, but less on the sources of heavy metals and bacteria between wastewater and stormwater.

"Our community was a little uncertain about the effects of stormwater management on the environment, but it was clear that the community sees chemical pollutants from stormwater and the risk of flooding houses as the two most serious risks associated with stormwater management," Mr Hodges says.

Just on 92 per cent of respondents supported the council's Project CARE wastewater design target, which aims to reduce overflows onto beaches from an average of 12 a year to two by the year 2021.

The consultation also asked the community to indicate how the council should fund these strategies. This part of the survey showed that 17 per cent preferred option one - the status quo; 34 per cent preferred option two - increase spending by 0.5 per cent a year; and 47 per cent preferred option three - increase spending by 1.6 per cent a year.

Mr Hodges says respondents gave a wide range of reasons why they chose a particular option - but a good portion cited a need to do the work urgently and to keep ahead of the need. 'Pay the money now, and avoid worse problems later', was a common theme, he says. The need to take a balanced approach that looks at affordability also came across strongly.

Chairperson of North Shore City's works and environment committee, Joel Cayford, says the council needs to fully involve the community in these decisions, as there is a need to change and improve what the council does, as well as for individual property owners to take more responsibility for the downstream effects of stormwater from their property.

"The high response rate reflects high public interest. Now council needs to deliver and meet public expectations. We need to walk the talk," Councillor Cayford says.

"We're conducting a major review of stormwater management issues, which are becoming increasingly important with the continuing growth of the city. Effective stormwater management won't just be about the council building more pipes, it will also be about everybody taking more responsibility for the rain that falls on their properties," says Councillor Cayford.

(ends)

NOTE TO EDITORS:

- North Shore City Council currently spends $7m a year upgrading the city's stormwater system

- Six cents in every rate dollar is spent on stormwater (plus 30 cents per dollar on wastewater)

- The council is budgeting to spend another $94m on new stormwater infrastructure over the next decade.


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