INDEPENDENT NEWS

Greymouth Council ‘reminded’ Of Raw Sewage Rules

Published: Wed 22 May 2024 06:41 PM
The Grey District Council has been "reminded" of its environmental obligations over sewage outfall into the Grey River by the West Coast Regional Council
Last week the Grey District Council moved -- not for the first time -- to require about 2000 properties in Greymouth to fully separate their sewerage connection from the town's storm water system.
Greymouth Mayor Tania Gibson said the fact sewage is going into Greymouth's waterways via stormwater was not acceptable "any more".
Sewage entering the lower Grey River via stormwater has elicited periodic complaints locally for years, particularly during whitebait season.
West Coast Regional Council chairman Peter Haddock this week welcomed the district council move.
The issue of raw sewage entering the river has been a sore point for a long time but he acknowledged the cost of separation would be unwelcome -- particularly for low income and pensioner households.
But the regional council can no longer let it lie, Cr Haddock said.
"The regional council have reminded the Grey District Council that they are non-compliant," he said on Monday.
"If we come under pressure from groups, and that could be iwi, we would probably have no option but to go to prosecution."
Greymouth began building a staged sewerage scheme in 2011.
The onus then was on property owners to connect within two years of the new wastewater pipes arriving at their gate.
By 2018 the majority of the town had access to the dedicated sewerage system.
That June former Mayor Tony Kokshoorn symbolically ripped out sewage warning signs dotted along the Greymouth Floodwall, with 40% of the town connected.
By then council was very conscious of the embarrassment of tourists taking a jaunt along the floodwall adjoining the CBD and seeing signs advertising that the Grey River was contaminated.
Cr Haddock said the "risk of disease" posed to the likes of fishers and whitebaiters due to the unseparated system can no longer be ignored.
He said Sawyers Creek and outfalls from the suburbs of Blaketown and Cobden were a primary concern -- with some gaps still in the sewerage reticulation.
"We've got a massive amount of sewage still going in there … at Blaketown sewage is going straight in."
Cr Haddock said both councils will work it through, "until every last person has separated".
However, the regional council's hand might yet be forced.
"The regional council has started to work in with the Grey District Council but sooner or later if we come under pressure, we'll have to take a stronger hand," Cr Haddock said.
Regional council chief executive Darryl Lew acknowledged this week that he had been "having conversations" with Grey about it for over six months.
Mr Lew said he was "very heartened" by the district council's latest response.
Non-compliant Greymouth properties will be notified by July 1 to complete separation at their property boundary within 12 months, or take steps to complete.
Property owners have until next April to advise their plan otherwise the district council will commission the work and bill the owner. The cost plus interest will then be recovered through a targeted rate.
However, the slow rate of connection has been grappled by the district council before.
By late 2019, 45% of the town's eligible properties had connected to the new system but about 2500 remained at that stage.
That September the district council endorsed new "operational arrangements" to compel property owners.
But the estimated $3000 cost to connect was considered by some Grey councillors as "grossly under", with figures of $12,000 to $14,000 per property then.
Last week the district council resolved that Greymouth property owners will have to cover the full cost of upward of $6000 each, while acknowledging it may take up to eight years to connect everyone, based on tradespeople availability.
Brendon McMahon - Local Democracy Reporter
Content from the Local Democracy Reporting (LDR) service is published by Scoop as a registered New Zealand Media Outlet LDR Partner.
Contact Lois Williams - Local Democracy Reporter

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