Wellington Scoop

Filtering our water, and talking about it


Soon after the Regional Council decided it had to spend $3.3m on new filters for the water from Wellington’s two storage lakes, the council’s chairman Chris Laidlaw announced plans for for “a conversation” about water.

His council had been dealing with a serious situation. It was told that a new kind of algae – which could produce toxins – had been found in the storage lakes, after complaints about the taste and smell of the water.

The DomPost reported councillors’ concerns about the algae on the floor of both lakes, which were drawn on for water on 150 days last year. They approved expenditure of $3.3m to pay for installing new filters as well as removing the old (inadequate?) system. Chris Laidlaw told them the decision was “the kind of precautionary step which experience had shown to be worth it.”

In his statement the following day, Chris Laidlaw said “Our whole approach to improving water quality in this region has been built around community aspirations and the methods and rules that are being developed are designed to deliver real impacts in water quality, availability and use.”

He didn’t mention the problem in the storage lakes, but he said the government’s national report on water quality shows two thirds of the region’s rivers and lakes are “swimmable on average” over the course of a year. Not a satisfactory result, as he admitted: “We can do better than that and we will. It’s in everyone’s interests that we steadily improve the overall quality of freshwater.”

His regional council has been working with communities in the Wairarapa and around Porirua Harbour “to make decisions about managing land and freshwater for future generations….We will begin the same conversation with communities in the Hutt Valley and Wellington later in the year.”

There’s a draft Natural Resources Plan which is to be considered by an independent panel in May, with public meetings in Kapiti, Wellington and the Wairarapa.

No doubt the public meetings will be asking about the algae and the potential toxins in the storage lakes, and the $3.3m spend, when the public meetings are scheduled. But there’s nothing about this latest issue on the Regional Council’s website. Its last news report about water quality was in December, when there was toxic algae in the Waipoua River (no dogs, no swimming), and in August, when grants were being offered to help clean-up Porirua Harbour. A report on Porirua Harbour last year said there is still generally poor water quality for swimming at the beaches and shellfish gathering areas. Another topic for the conversations.

Read also:
Greens launch bill to protect freshwater


  1. Ian Apperley, 27. February 2017, 16:12

    There’s been quite a lot of double-speak around water quality by the GWRC in the past few weeks.

    So; if the GWRC are responsible for water quality then they are doing a poor job.

  2. Mark Shanks, 28. February 2017, 9:00

    GWRC are responsible for water quality and they are also committed to the economic prosperity of the region. I cannot but think that these two aims are in conflict. The current disastrous situation over river quality and dairying is the prime example of the inability of government (national, regional and local) to strike a sane balance. The highest possible water quality should be a non-negotiable planning principle.