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Govt cannot wash its hands of Kawakawa sewage

8 July 2004

Govt cannot wash its hands of Kawakawa sewage

Far North-based Green MP Sue Bradford says that while the local council is largely to blame, the spill of sewage at Kawakawa should be a wake up call for the Government on water quality issues across the region and around the country.

"The Far North District Council has failed the oyster farmers, its own ratepayers and the environment," said Ms Bradford.

"You would think that with a $10 million lawsuit hanging over their heads after the earlier contamination of Orongo Bay that the council would have sorted these issues out. They need to start taking this seriously; it is simply not fair for their ratepayers to have to pick up a huge bill for repeated shortfalls in their duty of care.

"However that doesn't let the Government off the hook. These sorts of 'accidents' have the potential to undermine the clean, green foundations of both the local and national economies, so surely the Government should have actively intervened after the earlier contamination to make sure the council identified and dealt with the cause. Where money is the issue in advancing infrastructure repairs or development, the Government should, at the very least, provide rapid, low-cost finance to councils. If it's a question of the council failing to get its priorities right, the Government should be setting them straight.

"But it is not just domestic sewage in the Bay of Islands that requires Government attention. Pakeha and Maori across the Far North are concerned about local water quality issues. While the repeated contamination at Kawakawa is getting in the headlines because of its impact on commercial businesses and the resulting legal action, there is also, for instance, problems with 'dirty dairying' contaminating the Hokianga Harbour.

"The RMA made provision for the drawing up of National Environmental Standards and National Policy Statements to provide guidance to councils on issues such as water and air quality, but these have not been given enough priority by the current Government and its predecessors. Only a few of these are close to completion, some thirteen years after the Act was passed. In the absence of such policy guidance, its not really surprising that there is such a variation in environmental standards and their application around the country and that business complains about a lack of certainty.

"The impact of land use upon both fresh and marine water quality is increasing nationwide, so its time to stop behaving like our lakes, rivers, harbours and seas have an infinite capacity to absorb both intentional and unintentional discharges of waste," said Ms Bradford.


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