Archive for the 'Environmental Issues' Category

Auckland Council Healthy Waters stormwater network discharge consent

June 19th, 2019

On 16 April 2019 Auckland Council commissioners granted Auckland Council Healthy Waters a network discharge consent for the diversion and discharge consent for all of the existing and future stormwater discharge from the public stormwater network.  Here is the decision.

While we appreciated the public notification and we supported the goal of aligning the range of HW stormwater consents into one framework, STEPS had submitted jointly with Oakley Creek opposing several aspects of this consent. We consider that “all future stormwater discharge” is far too broad given the problematic situation now. Further we see no standards for what can be discharged.

Following our submissions, we were later shocked at the lack of consultation with residents and groups such as STEPS. Special follow up sessions were held by Healthy Waters consent team with various corporate groups who had concerns, but none with other submitters such as Forest and Bird, SASOC (Stop Auckland Sewage Overflows Coalition) or STEPS.   On 31 May STEPS and Friends of Oakley Creek jointly became section 274 participants to the appeals of both Forest and Bird and SASOC, to try to achieve some more balance and involvement of ratepayers in the discharge consent process.  For us this is about clean water, as stormwater is the major driver of pollution in Meola Creek.

Caring for Waitītiko Meola Creek

March 14th, 2019

The photos below were taken on 14 March at Norgrove Reserve, Mt Albert.  They show an unhealthy oily scum on Waitītiko Meola Creek, just below the  1 kilometer pipe coming from the Roy Clements Treeway. We were alerted by a local resident who had seen the problem growing over 2-3 days. We logged the problem (INR60218869) with Auckland Council Pollution Hotline., and  5 or 6 hours later received advice from Auckland Council.

This was not a sewer overflow situation.  The officer stated that both PH and ammonia measures were neutral. Therefore they could take no further action. They assumed it was pollen.

According to the pollen calendar from Massey University, gorse and privet are the most likely pollens in March. Chamberlain Park rock forest, on the opposite right bank at this same location is riddled with a dominant canopy of mature tree privet 10+ meters tall. While Auckland Council states that “Auckland Council controls tree privet in regional parks and in parks with high-value ecosystems” they do nothing at this location to manage pests like privet or even possums and rats. The rock forest is an outstanding natural feature, and the privet is complemented by a few mature titoki trees, with an understorey of puriri, kawakawa and other natives typical of a healthy lava rock forest. Less than 1% of an estimated 5000 Ha or lava rock forest remains in Auckland. We expect that with the significant budget and resource expansion of from the targeted rate for the natural environment, Auckland Council would hold true to its word and control this privet.

The Asthma foundation lists privet as a trigger for asthma, and with 100,000 people in Albert Eden local board area and more than 33 people per Hectare it seems to us that control of privet would be another significant health issue for the local population. [The pipe at this location is part of Auckland Council’s ownership, control and use of Waititiko Meola Creek as a vehicle for discharging sewer overflows when it rains. (See an article on Te Auaunga which also carries raw sewage, e-coli and piped stormwater.) STEPS sees combined sewers as the biggest environmental health issue for Auckland residents, and people who access streams, beaches and harbours.]

To compound these issues a judicial review  into Chamberlain Park redevelopment was lodged by golfing advocates pleading for their historic rights to an 18 hole public golf course. In June 2018 the High Court found in favour of Auckland Council who plan to allow access to Waititiko Meola Creek in Chamberlain Park. Currently this publicly owned stream in a publicly owned golf course is fenced off with no public access allowed ever. The Albert Eden Local Board required STEPS volunteers to cease our work in controlling privet and asparagus weed here.  The reason given was that the court might misinterpret our work as part of AC’s redevelopment. We believe it is time for Auckland Council to address and inform the public on exactly why we are not allowed into this unfenced area to carry out pest control work which their own staff are not doing.

STEPS asks:

  • Auckland Council recognise the high ecological value of the Waititiko  margin rock forest in its entirety
  • Auckland Council place a value on the health and well being of residents of Waitemata and Albert Eden Local Boards who have the densest populations in New Zealand
  • Auckland Council support STEPS volunteers to control pests including privet, rats and possums along Waititiko Meola Creek
  • Auckland Council and Watercare Services separate sewers and release Waititiko Meola Creek from the burden and threats of piped sewage from the upper reaches of both Waititiko Meola Creek and  Waiateao Motions Creek.

Auckland Three Waters Update

December 16th, 2018

Waititiko Meola Creek’s environmental health suffers from frequent overflows of around 1 mill cubic meters of stormwater and wastewater annually.   It is stormwater which fuels the majority of Auckland environmental overflows, and this is the responsibility of Auckland Council and Auckland Transport, though on Auckland isthmus these organisations pour undisclosed amounts of stormwater into the wastewater network run by Watercare (“combined sewers”).

This diagram shows the current overflow points on Auckland isthmus, including those on Waititiko Meola.

There are a few initiatives under way by government bodies which may lead to some improvements.  These organisations often refer to “Three Waters” meaning: – drinking water, sewage and other waste, and stormwater which arises from roads and urban hard surfaces.

  • Auckland Council’s promised “Three Waters Strategy” work has been going for 18 months or more. Now labelled a discussion paper and published on 4 December:  3 Waters Discussion AC  Public consultation will be held in February-March 2019.
  • Ministry for the Environment produced  “Essential Fresh Water” in October 2018.
  • On November 20, 2018 the Government announced a road map for three waters . (The Three Waters Review is a cross-agency initiative led by the Minister of Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta following water supply issues in Havelock North.)

The last of these covers regulatory reforms, as well as possible reduction of the number of suppliers of drinking water and waste water services. Auckland and Wellington may be least affected because they each already have one large service supplier – Watercare and Wellington Water. The paper stresses that water will remain in public ownership, but that current standards are not enforced and not met.  There is much discussion about costs and funding.

Of most interest for Auckland are planned: measures to give greater transparency around the operation of  wastewater and stormwater systems, and to promote better practice.   This offers some hope that the water reforms will extend beyond the basics of drinking water and wastewater which are reasonably well managed in Auckland by Watercare.

The Auckland Council paper proposes a vision for 2050: Te mauri o te wai o Tāmaki Makaurau – the life supporting capacity of Auckland’s waters – is protected and enhanced.  It is very high level, discussing water values, issues, principles and processes.  It mentions combined sewers, but also claims Auckland Council is: capturing and cleaning stormwater before it reaches the sea. It does not specify where or what volumes are cleaned.

The third paper, Essential Freshwater only touches on stormwater, largely delegating Auckland problems to Auckland Council while focussing on larger rural rivers.  It mentions: it is anticipated that a separate paper will be presented to Cabinet in due course on wetland and estuary protection. The proposed NPS on Indigenous Biodiversity could be an important tool for protecting wetlands. How far will it be into the future before we see any standards here?

One scenario is that the two Government initiatives will focus on regulations and changes which improve drinking water and wastewater outside Auckland and Wellington (for around 50% of the total population though covering most of the area of NZ). Given Auckland Council is already pleading for special purpose vehicles to move approved Watercare spending off its books, it seems unlikely they will spend more on stormwater and combined sewer issues without requirements and standards from central Government.

Auckland Council claims in the next ten years, we expect to invest $7.1 billion in diverse water projects of all sizes across  the region. It also states: Between now and 2048, we expect to have spent around $35.7 billion on water infrastructure.

After lobbying from residents and environmental groups, Auckland Long Term Plan made a start by approving $452 million for spending on stormwater. Council has committed to reduce the volume and number of stormwater overflows on Auckland isthmus, including some separation of combined sewers. They are very clear that Meola catchment is “difficult”, which appears to mean expensive to separate.

This diagram shows  Auckland Council’s promise  to achieve just 10 remaining overflow points, 5 of which are on Waititiko Meola Creek.  The Central Interceptor is expected to take approximately 800,000 cubic meters more fresh water away from Waitemata Harbour and divert it to Mangere Waste Treatment Plant (MWTP).  Manukau Harbour residents rightly claim they have a salt water environment, and MWTP is already the largest freshwater river discharging into the Harbour.

STEPS has made it clear to Auckland Council that ratepayers expect local stormwater treatment. Ideally this means water sensitive design techniques such as rain gardens (see more here ). It should also mean more wetlands, both private and public on the large areas underlain by aquifers. And it will need  significant improvements in the monitoring of compliance and the management of the discharges to the aquifers via “soakage” by Auckland Council Healthy Waters, and Watercare.

Led by SASOC, Aucklanders have communicated to Auckland Council that the status quo for our storm water and our local environment is not good enough, and that Aucklanders expect their city to match up to the standards enjoyed in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Wellington and Christchurch. This will require ongoing spending – probably of the order of magnitude that has already been committed to roads and transport. Ratepayers will have to communicate the need and citizens’ expectations clearly to Auckland Councillors and the Mayor to make that happen.

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