Wellington Scoop

Sludge dumping idea fails to get support

Thanks again to Georgina Campbell on the NZ Herald – this time for revealing a Wellington city councillor’s suggestion that sludge from the sewage treatment plant should be poured into the sea off the south coast.

The suggestion, in an email to councillors, came from Councillor Sean Rush who’s in charge of the city’s “three waters.”

After the Herald reported his email, he did some backtracking on his Facebook page:

Some of you may have seen some articles in the press about me querying the cost of the ongoing trucking operation to take our wastewater from Moa Point to the Southern Landfill. With it costing ~$100,000 a day and no guarantee that it will end as scheduled, I think it is right to ask the question. But at this stage that’s all I’m doing – getting the right people into the conversation, assembling the facts and getting fully informed. The option to discharge via the outfall, 2 km offshore, is not one I am very comfortable with but I still think it needs to be properly considered. I would not be doing my job if I didn’t ask the question.

His suggestion – or was it just a question – failed to find any support.

Regional Council chair Daran Ponter poured cold water on the sludge dumping idea:

“The Regional Council does not play favourites when it comes to resource consenting. There is no free pass for the City Council here. Their resource consent allows for the discharge of sewage to the Cook Strait in instances of emergency. There is no emergency here. I acknowledge this is costly and that the lockdown is contributing to delays, but this does not warrant reaching for the release valve.”

Councillor Jenny Condie sounded relieved.

That seems pretty definitive. Saves us spending any more time discussing the pros and cons. I’m certainly not interested in getting prosecuted by GWRC for breaching the terms of our resource consent.

Councillor Iona Pannett tried to change the subject, within one sentence:

I don’t support this proposal, we need to protect our waterways but welcome questions from colleagues on how we can save money. One suggestion I have is to cut the subsidies that we pay to airlines to fly to Wellington.

And former mayor Justin Lester reminded us of the importance of the south coast:

A short-sighted move like this would potentially leave Wellington’s South Coast, a marine reserve, covered in sewage sludge. Ever heard of cutting off your nose to spite your face?

Then the whole subject was overtaken by an announcement from Wellington Water. At last they’ve worked out how to fix the broken sludge pipelines – and they say the work will be done next month. Ending the 24-hour circuits by the poo-trucks.

Sean Rush on KiwiBlog


  1. Wellington City Council, 6. April 2020, 12:51

    No decision has been made by WCC & Wgtn Water to pump treated sewage into Cook Strait. The proposal is the subject of discussion between our City Councillors due to the cost of trucking sewage sludge to the Southern Landfill while a broken pipe is fixed. [via twitter]

  2. Dr Sea Rotmann, 6. April 2020, 12:52

    This shouldn’t even be debated – it’s utter madness to even consider adding ANOTHER potential public health disaster on top of covid-19. We are paying your rates so you keep our environment & our people safe. Under-investment in water infrastructure is at fault so pay & fix it! [via twitter]

  3. Dave Hartnell, 6. April 2020, 14:44

    I agree with Iona. Ditch the Singapore Airlines welfare.

  4. Andrew, 6. April 2020, 14:45

    Weirdly I was just sent a survey about this question from Colmar Brunton (survey number 403254). Presumably it’s still on the agenda for the WCC, despite what’s being said above, or they wouldn’t still be asking about it.
    It’s about time that the WCC became more open about their decision-making processes. What we’re hearing in the media seems to be different from what’s actually being discussed behind closed doors.

  5. Dr Sea Rotmann, 6. April 2020, 18:55

    This shouldn’t even need investigation it is COMPLETELY NUTS! After a discovery that dumping Wellington’s sewage off the South Coast would close beaches, the councillor who suggested it has gone luke-warm. But the Mayor wants more information…. [via twitter]