by Helen Martin
In a significant initiative, Auckland Council Te Kaunihera o Tâmaki Makaurau has produced the draft document Our Water Future Tâtâtouwai ahu akenei. It begins “Clean, healthy water is essential to our future. It gives us life, shapes our environment and adds to the beauty of our region. … As our region continues to grow and change, we need to look after this most precious taonga.”
Not all leadership prepares for the long term effects of water pollution, a case in point being President Trump in February 2017 signing a resolution reversing the Obama-era ‘stream protection rule’, which aimed at blocking coal-mining operations from dumping waste into nearby waterways, so we can be grateful that our civic leaders are thinking about – pardon the pun – the downstream effects of not caring for our precious water, and long term strategies for looking after it. Feedback sought in the discussion document is aimed at answering the questions “What are the big water issues we need to tackle?’ and “What kind of water future could we create?”
To give locals here a chance to air their views, a meeting organised by the Council and Radio Waatea was held at Te Whare Oranga ô Parakai in March. Rodney Board member Brenda Steele, who is keen to see locals have their say, was pleased with the turnout. “The nub of it is that communities all over Auckland are knowledgeable about local issues and they’re taking note of their back yards,” she says. “They’re worried that they can’t take their kids for a swim in the local stream and that there is sewerage in the harbours. ”Bearing in mind that installation of Helensville’s sewerage and water supply system happened in 1913, one issue causing problems is that new infrastructure has been going in on top of old under roadways. “We need to work out how to build better infrastructure and manage growth, so everything isn’t going down waterways,” Brenda says.
Concerns at the March meeting, where “people were very vocal” included: the Council hides behind the Resource Management Act (RMA), resulting in environmental damage; there’s potential for lead from Makarau gun club activities to leach into waterways; consents are given for clean fills but they are not then monitored by an independent body; Helensville’s existing infrastructure is inadequate; the costs of water connection and waste water charges are too high; the rule forbidding town supply people from installing water tanks is unreasonable; storm water from new developments is going into the Kaipara River and the Kaipara Harbour; there’s a lack of monitoring and legislation around protection of our waterways.
Brenda points out that both Helensville and Waimauku, in the practice of the day, have buried rubbish tips on the edge of their towns, which are not being monitored and could still contain toxins capable of leaching into the Kaipara River.” At the meeting it was emphasised that the unwellness of every waterway isn’t just about farmers,” she explains. “South Kaipara has a huge catchment area, and water going out into our harbour comes from the Waitakeres, to Taupaki, through Kumeu to Helensville. We’re dealing with everyone else’s paru, including new housing developments and new industrial businesses.”
Feedback on Auckland’s water future is being accepted through the website www.akhaveyoursay.nzuntil April 19, so it’s not too late to make a submission.