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Greens welcome legal move over Kawakawa sewage

22 July 2004

Greens welcome legal move over Kawakawa sewage

Northland-based Green MP Sue Bradford is welcoming the Northland Regional Council's decision to take the Far North District Council to task legally over the Kawakawa sewage scandal, although she says it is a case of better late than never.

The NRC today served an abatement notice requiring the FNDC to produce an action plan to stop the sewage discharges from the troubled Kawakawa sewage plant.

"I'm sure many Northland people would agree with me that while this abatement notice is welcome, the NRC should have bought the weight of the law to bear on the FNDC after the first contamination of Orongo Bay earlier this year," said Ms Bradford.

"While the regional council may well want to remain civil in its negotiations with the district council, it really should be more staunch in fulfilling its statutory role.

"The timeline they've now agreed to should be applied without compromise. If the work to improve the plant is not carried out on schedule, the NRC should not offer any extensions and quickly take further appropriate legal action.

"The FNDC should be embarrassed by this fiasco. It needs to not offer any excuses and get the work done as quickly as possible. If it drags its heels at all, the legal costs for ratepayers across Northland will mount.

"But as I've said previously, successive Governments must share some of the blame for this situation because they have taken so long to come up with the National Environmental Standards and National Policy Statements, provided for by the RMA, that would give councils the guidance they need in setting local rules and processes about things like water quality.

"Even then, any environmental degradation has the potential to damage New Zealand's 'clean, green image' and Kiwis have an expectation that, regardless of the legal process, the buck stops with central Government. So the Environment Ministry should always be actively monitoring situations such as this and be ready to intervene when local officials drag their heels. Where money is the issue in advancing infrastructure repairs or development, councils should have access to rapid, low-cost finance. If it's a question of the council failing to get its priorities right, the Government should be setting them straight.

"Sewage should simply not be being released into water anywhere in New Zealand. 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.

ENDS

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