Wellington Scoop

20 reasons for opposing plan to keep discharging sewage into Porirua harbour

More than a hundred people attended a public hui in Titahi Bay last night to discuss plans to continue discharging sewage into Porirua Harbour. Titahi Bay residents have long been concerned about the discharge of untreated sewage into their bay.

There was disappointment that the mayor of Porirua did not attend the hui, and that no city councillors or regional councillors were present to hear the residents’ concerns.

The meeting made a unanimous decision to ask why the Mayor and the councillors did not attend.

And there was a consensus that commissioners are needed to consider the issue, as the resource consent process provides no clear plan or financial strategy to fix frequent polluting from an ageing treatment plant.

Campaigners Marie Wright and Michelle Warshawsky gave the hui twenty reasons for declining approval for continuing the approval of discharges into Titahi Bay.

1. The Porirua treatment plant has a lengthy history of non-compliance for poor quality discharge, often noticeable with a visible slick or plume that floats into Titahi Bay.

2. The long-term effects of discharge into the aquatic environment are unknown due to a lack of data, and recent snap-shot surveys and assumptions are not comparable.

3. Upgrades to improve the quality of the discharge and accommodate population growth in the catchment continue to be deferred.

4. There is no guarantee that the promises of hydraulic and UV upgrades, which have been deferred since 2018, will occur by 2023, and no guarantee that upgrades in the network will occur by 2023.

5. There is no guarantee that upgrades will produce a better quality of secondary treatment. And if the secondary quality of treatment is poor then the tertiary treatment (that is the UV), will likely continue to malfunction – as has been the case for the plant this year.

6. Proposed UV upgrades require high energy output, which contradicts the Porirua Council’s declaration of climate change.

7. Jacob Engineer’s and eCoast Marine Consulting and Research independent reviews say the application and proposed conditions in some areas are ambiguous and lack sufficient data and policies to validate some statements and assumptions.

8. Overall, we believe the application and proposed conditions are poorly-written, misleading and lack specific accountability to measure, record, report and mitigate. This … puts human and aquatic health at risk and is disingenuous to the Resource Management Act and the Treaty of Waitangi.

9. There are no GPS locations given for any sampling and monitoring sites.

10. Allowing a higher flow coming into the plant is not responsible if the quality of flow discharging from the plant is poor.

11. Using annualised calculations dilutes the data.

12. Continuously monitoring flow to the plant when flow meters are often broken is not accurate monitoring.

13. Discharge of partially and untreated wastewater after 2023 will not cease:

a. There is no guarantee that UV or hydraulic upgrades to the plant will be finished by 2023; these upgrades were scheduled for 2018 and continue to be deferred.

b. The $6 million promised for the upgrade to the plant at a public hui in 2019 has not been spent nor is it tagged in the next 20 years in the Long Term Plan.

c. Heavy rain, a power cut, machinery breakdown, surges in the network and plant malfunction can occur and will cause the discharge of untreated and partially treated wastewater into the sea, now and after 2023.

d. There is no guarantee that upgrades will produce a better quality secondary treatment.

14. Proposed exceedance levels for contamination in wastewater are higher than the existing (expired) consent and higher than recommended levels.

a. Porirua has 4 times less the flow of the Moa Point Plant and wants 5 times more contamination.

15. Recognised standards of sampling should be taken on the surface of the water and not below the water (as the permit proposes), and all conditions where it mentions sampling should include recording and reporting of faecal exceedance, including visible slicks or plumes within 100m of the discharge and not 200m.

16. Any discharge should be sampled within 2 hours after the discharge – as is for Seaview, Western and Moa Point treatment plants.

a. The ambiguity of wording makes it possible that Porirua is the only treatment plant that wants to sample 24 hours after the discharge – two tidal flows and a diluted reading.

17. Quarterly and Annual reporting does not cover the effect of discharges when the plant bypasses – the frequency, duration, exceedance of flow or exceedance of contamination, basically the real damage when a plant is under-performing.

18. It is not clear whether the permit holder (Porirua Council) , permit applicant (Wellington Water) or permit authority (Greater Wellington Regional Council) is to be contacted when making complaints.

19. The proposed Ecological, Monitoring and Technical reviews do not recognise the Resource Management Act requirement for cultural assessment.

20. Section 128 allows the Council and Wellington Water to amend or delete any condition possibly 12 months from the start of the permit and then every 5 years thereafter. It is not clear if the consent can be changed 6 months within the first 5 years or within the first 12 months due to the ambiguity of content in these conditions.

August: Ten sewage overflows into Porirua Harbour
November: Raw sewage on Titahi Bay beach
January: Sewage on beach “heartbreaking”
February: Communication failures after sewage overflows
March: Community angry about sewage overflows
April: Second failure at sewage treatment plant


  1. Kara, 10. June 2021, 9:39

    This is an appalling situation and the Council should be ashamed.
    As a teenager I used to swim at Titahi Bay and paddle on Porirua harbour. Given the 20 points raised by Wright and Warshawsky, I wouldn’t risk it now.

  2. Greenwelly, 10. June 2021, 10:13

    Kara, the outlet for Porirua’s sewage has always been at Titahi Bay, prior to 1989 it discharged raw untreated sewage…

    The plant for all its failings has still significantly improved this outcome…

  3. CleanupTheBay, 10. June 2021, 12:29

    Five weeks is not long enough for the re-consent process. We must all state – in our opposition to consent – that the time period for the process is not adequate.
    – Wellington Water provided 800 pages of documentation to support their resource consent conditions.
    – They state this has so far cost $1.73 million.
    – Yet they have given only 5 weeks and 2 days for the public to respond to their 800 pages.

  4. Ange, 10. June 2021, 12:38

    Thank you Marie and Michele for your hard mahi over many years. I greatly appreciate the summary you have put together from the 800 pages over the past weeks, especially given that Wellington Water didn’t provide a summary. I shall be submitting my opposition to their request for a license to pollute.
    “14. Proposed exceedance levels for contamination in wastewater are higher than the existing (expired) consent and higher than recommended levels.
    a. Porirua has 4 times less the flow of the Moa Point Plant and wants 5 times more contamination.”

  5. Michelle Warshawsky, 10. June 2021, 18:38

    Last night’s hui was an eye-opener for the community, a meeting on a significant asset with a significant impact on the environment and the health and safety of aquatic and human life and not one Council representative was there. Instead we had to listen to Council contractors’ justification of their spend on $1.7million thus far, on a license to pollute. What it feels like is they are spending all this time and money to create a consent document to justify what they are already doing (and increasingly doing) so they won’t be penalised in the future.

  6. Kiwidave, 10. June 2021, 20:17

    Greenwelly. This is 2021 not 1989.. 32 years on and any discharge of sewage is unacceptable. Sewage leaks / overflows by Councils – not on.

  7. Stella, 10. June 2021, 20:28

    This feels like a surgeon is saying it’s OK that your blood is dripping out from your cut and will continue to drip, it’s not pouring out. Not good enough PCC.
    Thanks Marie & Michelle for your dedication to our community

  8. Phil Rounthwaite, 11. June 2021, 7:11

    Its a real shame. We had a problem back in the late 80s of raw sewage and the water colour was terrible. Then the council upgraded the treatment plant which was great for the population at that time. I then moved to Auckland. About 1999-2001 I brought my wife down, we sat on the lookout overlooking the bay and was proud of how blue the water was while telling her about the prior problem. It now saddens me to hear how all that recovery has gone so far backwards since. I have recently had so many issues with PCC with a don’t care attitude, too willing to rob me of my money and spend it in the wrong places. This is wrong and they need to stand up to correct this properly NOW.

  9. Kara Lipski, 12. June 2021, 19:17

    So what happened to the project that was a justification for a rates rise in the late 1970’s? That project was secondary treatment of sewerage.

    Has PCC dropped the ball since that time?

  10. Pam, 15. June 2021, 22:38

    We all agree it is totally inappropriate to say the least. But what happens if consents are refused? Does the plant close? I doubt it. The stuff has to go somewhere. Do we have a solution?