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QLDC Outlines Next Steps for Wastewater Overflows

Queenstown Lakes District Council will not appeal the recent Otago Regional Council (ORC) decision to decline its resource consent application to discharge untreated wastewater overflows.

Submissions during the consenting process highlighted the community did not support the proposed approach, which has encouraged Council to consider new investment to address the risk of overflows from its network while continuing to protect public health. This alternative approach will see QLDC work with the community to ensure there is a clear understanding of what steps can be taken to help avoid overflows.

QLDC General Manager Property & Infrastructure Peter Hansby said a lot was learned through interactions with the community and iwi. These interactions, together with the recommendations from the commissioners that considered the consent application, have helped shape our response going forward.

“Although an appeal to the Environment Court was an option, officers proposed to use the draft conditions of consent as an alternative plan to Councillors. Hopefully this approach will improve environmental outcomes while also eliminating any potential for future prosecutions,” said Mr Hansby.

Mayor Jim Boult acknowledged that the community had been very clear about their feelings on the resource consent application.

“The Council heard in no uncertain terms how people felt. Much of the intent behind the application was one of education and reducing risk of overflows whilst endeavouring to reduce the occurrence of costly court cases. On balance the Council has determined that investing in these new initiatives is preferable to continuing to litigate the issue through the courts, and sends a clear message that this Council is taking its responsibilities seriously – both to the service levels for the community and in protecting our natural environment.”

“We very much want to work closely with ORC to implement the programme of work outlined. Together our approach will continue to be one that educates and mitigates risk rather than just responding when things go wrong,” said Mayor Boult.

QLDC Councillor and Infrastructure Committee Chair Quentin Smith stated that it was logical and positive that Council takes a solution-based approach rather than a consenting one.

“Clearly we need to do everything in our power to prevent any waste entering our waterways. We all have a role to play in ensuring our wastewater network is functioning well and I hope the community will support these programmes. The Council will be putting its promises into action, and I would encourage everyone to take note and implement the advice that comes out through the education programmes. Our wastewater system is not the right place for construction waste, wet wipes, nappies or unwanted fats,” said Councillor Smith.

The work programme adopted by Council in a public excluded part of their meeting on Thursday 30 January includes the following:

> Network audit: identifying and investing in network improvements to reduce overflows and their effects.

> Education programme: educating residents, businesses and visitors about not damaging or blocking the wastewater network.

> Maintenance plan: requiring contractors to undertake improved maintenance and clearing of wastewater lines.

> Best practice: obtaining data from other councils and the auditor general about the performance of other councils and demonstrating that QLDC’s performance is aligned with national best practice.

> Wastewater overflow response protocol: illustrating how QLDC would deliver the outcomes committed to throughout this programme.

The deadline for an appeal to the Environment Court was Friday 31 January 2020.

These projects will technically be approved through the 2020-2021 Annual Plan process, and the draft plan will be presented to Council at its meeting on 12 March.

A programme for employers to help them engage effectively with younger employees was launched today by Minister of Employment, Willie Jackson.

The Youth Ready Employer Programme contains a range of on-line templates that employers can easily access to help with employing and retaining young people in their businesses.

The programme is a collaboration between the Ministry of Social Development, the Auckland Business Chamber and its wider chamber network and UK entrepreneurs Jack Parsons and Ben Towers. Their focus is on helping employers understand, connect, recruit, develop and retain young people, while creating work environments that support wellbeing and positive mental health.

“The programme and its resources give a pathway to employers to follow and become youth-ready – something young people are looking for and prioritising when they’re looking for jobs,” Willie Jackson said.

“The focus is on finding ways to connect with the age group of 18 to 30 year olds who we know have some common characteristics, operating styles and work expectations.

“New Zealand isn’t alone in trying to transition young people into work when there are the range of issues to overcome like social and economic disadvantage, mental health and other everyday barriers that block young people from accessing employment opportunities,” Willie Jackson said.

These resources support the work the Government is doing for the group of young people who are not working or studying in the 15 to 24 years age group.

“We really want to steer this group away from benefit dependency and resources like this are helping employers create the right environment for younger team members to do their best work,” Willie Jackson said.

The Youth Ready Employer Programme resources can be accessed at www.nzbusinesschamber.co.nz/youthreadyemployers

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