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QLDC Wastewater Network Consent Application

In April this year, Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) applied under the Resource Management Act for a resource consent from the Otago Regional Council (ORC) to authorise minor overflows from QLDC’s wastewater network.

QLDC General Manager Property & Infrastructure Peter Hansby said the application is for occasional overflow events that are already occurring.

“This is not about deliberately discharging wastewater into lakes as has been suggested by some. There is a reality that given the behaviour of users of the wastewater network and its proximity to water, these overflows will occasionally occur and these result in costly prosecutions by ORC. These discharges are not the norm and the application we have made is far from seeking permission to pollute.”

“The approach recognises that in a system that is largely built close to water there is an existing and constant risk of discharge, no matter how well the system is built or maintained. Sometimes these occur as a result of pipe failure and sometimes through blockages that result from inappropriate use of the wastewater system (discharge of large quantities of fats, construction material and the like) and intrusion by tree roots,” said Mr Hansby.

QLDC has significantly invested in reducing the number of unintended discharges over recent years in addition to improving transparency and reporting, and improving the network remains Council’s core intention.

“QLDC is primarily concerned with upgrading the growing network, and has no desire to allow or encourage discharges. This application in no way implies a lessening of standards and the scale of our $105M investment into wastewater systems for the district should reassure residents that we are taking the management of wastewater very seriously. However, these discharges are caused by blockages that result from inappropriate use of the wastewater system and intrusion by tree roots. While the Council has systems in place to reduce more slowly occurring events like tree root intrusion, the discharges caused by individual actions are effectively impossible to eliminate. Education will be a key tool in reducing such events.”

“In the meantime, each discharge can cost ratepayers in the order of $25,000-$40,000 in fines and this is money we would rather invest into the network. Plus our ratepayers pay twice because ORC has costs as well,” added Mr Hansby.

If the resource consent is granted, Council can focus on investing in wastewater infrastructure and education to further reduce the risk of these overflow events, rather than paying fines because the discharges are unauthorised.

The application was publicly notified by ORC at QLDC’s request.

“We’re pleased to see that it has generated widespread feedback, and that the community has been keen to be involved. We are now within a consenting process which is progressing to a hearing and we will await the outcome before we discuss next steps, which will be based on that outcome. In any case the Council will continue with its very strong programme to improve the resilience and capacity of our network’s as the community grows and develops,” said Mr Hansby.

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