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Better monitoring required for stormwater being discharged into Wellington harbour

Press Release – Councilor Daran Ponter
The Greater Wellington Regional Council has released its decision on the Wellington City Council’s application for resource consent to continue discharging stormwater into the Wellington Harbour and along the coast.

Cr Daran Ponter, newly elected to the Greater Wellington Regional Council, today welcomed the Regional Council’s decision to require more intensive monitoring of stormwater discharged into the Wellington Harbour and along the South Coast.

Cr Ponter says that managing stormwater is a part of living in an urban environment. “Stormwater is runoff from roads, industrial areas and domestic areas. In high rainfall events it is possible for sewage to enter into the stormwater system posing a threat to the natural environment, fishing and recreational activities.”

Cr Ponter says that the consent sends a strong message to the Wellington City Council to continue its planned improvement to upgrade both its sewerage and stormwater systems.

Cr Ponter says that the Regional Council has also limited the City Council’s resource consent to 10 years.

Cr Ponter said say that while the Wellington City Council has over the years demonstrated a responsible approach to addressing stormwater issues, including significant investment in stormwater and sewerage infrastructure, there was still more to do.

“There is still much to be done to ensure that sewage does not leak into the stormwater system and that the sewage system can cope during heavy rainfall events, says Cr Ponter.”

In particular the City Council still has a significant way to go to upgrade the Western Waste Water Treatment Plan (which processes Karori’s sewage) and to prevent sewage entering the stormwater system in older parts of the City’s network of sewers and stormwater drains.

Cr Ponter says that the Wellington City Council, the Wellington Regional Council and community groups and schools have a strong role to play in better educating the community about the consequences of tipping effluent “down the drain”.

He says that schools already have very strong environmental programmes that reinforce the connection between stormwater and the state of our Harbour and coastline.

“People need to be conscious of what they are doing. They need to be conscious that their drain is ultimately connected to the Harbour or the sea says Cr Ponter.

He says that the Lower Hutt City Council will need to take note of the conditions imposed on the Wellington City Council, as he expected the consent issued to the Wellington City Council would form the basis of a template to be applied elsewhere around the Harbour.

“If we are going to be guaranteed a clean Wellington Harbour then everyone is going to have to lift their game” says Cr Ponter.

Press release from Greater Wellington Regional Council
New stormwater consents granted to Wellington City Council for a duration of 10 years are designed to drive longer term improvements in the quality of stormwater discharges to Wellington Harbour and the South Coast.

“The shorter term of the consent and a strong focus on monitoring and management envisages that there will be further reductions in sewerage inputs in stormwater in the future,” Greater Wellington Environmental Regulation Manager Alistair Cross said.

“The monitoring information collected over this period, including the management plans to be developed through this consent will provide WCC with information to identify contaminant sources and prioritise actions to reduce stormwater contamination beyond the 10 years of this consent.

“A strong emphasis on community liaison also means community groups will have a say in the development of the management plans while a stormwater education programme is designed to help boost public understanding of stormwater and how it’s managed.”

Key consent conditions include:

* Management plans that set out environmental objectives as well as a framework for addressing stormwater contamination in the long term.
* Water sampling at 20 key outfalls for microbiological contaminants, bathing beach water quality sampling, and cultural health monitoring of the discharges.
* A Stormwater Consultative Committee (SCC) with representatives from community groups ensuring regular liaison with key stakeholders. The aim of the SCC is to report on and discuss progress with and content of the management plans, monitoring results, and other matters relating to the exercise of the consent and general stormwater management.
* A Stormwater Education Programme (SEP) to boost public understanding of stormwater management and the ways in which the public can minimise their contamination of stormwater.

The consents were granted by an Independent Hearing Panel comprised of Sally Baber (Chair), Barbara Donaldson, Greater Wellington Councillor and Greg Ryder, Minister of Conservation Appointee. Submitters and the Minister of Conservation can appeal the Hearing Panel’s decision. The appeal period closes on the 11 March.