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Lake Taupō wastewater discharge investigation concludes

A five month investigation into the Taupō wastewater spill in July has concluded, with Waikato Regional Council deciding it will not initiate a prosecution.

Approximately 800,000 litres of wastewater, including raw sewage, was discharged directly into the lake on 2 and 3 July. The incident was triggered by a burst underground water main eroding a section of cliff face, which caused a footpath to collapse onto a sewerage pipe, resulting in it breaking and discharging wastewater to the lake.

As a result of this incident Taupō District Council undertook a large operation to shift the water and wastewater infrastructure back from the cliff face. During this operation there was a further discharge of wastewater to the lake on 16 July.

Waikato Regional Council’s investigations manager Patrick Lynch said there had been a thorough and independent investigation into the July incidents.

“There is no doubt this was, at the time, a terrible incident with far-reaching impacts on iwi, residents, water users and visitors,” said Mr Lynch.

“The purpose of the Resource Management Act (RMA) is very clear – that is to promote sustainable management of natural and physical resources, and this incident clearly goes completely against that purpose.

“However, the RMA does allow for ‘accidents’ in situations where the incident was not foreseeable, was beyond anyone’s control and was adequately mitigated. In our view, that is the situation here.

“This was a unique set of circumstances. Our investigation has determined that it would not be appropriate for any person or entity to face formal enforcement action,” Mr Lynch said.

“We take our regulatory responsibilities very seriously. We have a strong reputation of taking enforcement action where it is warranted and legally appropriate to do so, regardless of who is involved,” he said, “but in this instance we will not be pursuing a prosecution for the incidents.”

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