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Norman: Coast Suffers While Council Dithers Over Sewage

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

It is ridiculous for Far North District Council to blame "greenies" for the council's lack of long-term planning and for sewage problems created by the council, Greens Co-Leader Russel Norman says.

On September 17 the Northern News reported the council as saying red tape and "greenies" were getting in the way of efforts to clean up waterways. The council also blamed Northland Regional Council and the Conservation Department (DOC).

Dr Norman says the main problem is that the district council has supported developers around the coastline for years, without fixing serious effluent problems first.

"Last week, iwi reps showed me around the failing sewage plant alongside the Waiarohia Stream in Hokianga Harbour at Omapere. It's been breaching its consent each time it overflows into the creek and anyway the plant's resource consent ran out in August 2007. This creek is being polluted just a few hundred metres from Hokianga Harbour near the heads - a kaimoana source, site of huge cultural significance to Maori, and famous for tourism."

In July, Northland Medical Officer of Health Jonathan Jarman wrote to and emailed iwi authorities and other concerned Northlanders saying, "there is evidence that most shellfish sites in Northland do not meet water quality guidelines". He also said, "There have been 16 separate outbreaks of illness over the last few years that were linked to shellfish just from the Bay of Islands". He sought funding to train local hapu to carry out tests on their own shellfish.

Says Dr Norman, "The Far North District Council is responsible for sewage disposal and so it's also partly responsible for making this kaimoana unsafe. Several Maori told me they could no longer feed visitors the local foods they were once famous for and instead had to buy mussels at the supermarket or 'Pensioner's Rock', as they call it.

"Unless the Far North District Council admits its mistakes it won't fix them. The problem at Omapere and at the plant up the road at Rawene at which partly-treated sewage leaks into the Omanaia River and the Hokianga is that the council wants the environment to suffer rather than put money into proper land-based systems.

"Local hap Ngati Korokoro, Te Pouka and Ngati Wharara have been asking the council for decades not to pollute the harbour and their kaimoana with sewage and experts in DOC and the regional council have for years been suggesting the council buys its own land or does a deal with a private landowner for a long-term disposal scheme.

"Instead the Far North District Council keeps demanding that the public estate coughs up because of its own bad planning. The fact that Kerikeri's wastewater treatment plant can cater for only half the town's population of more than 6000 is testament to the council's failure, especially when the council is encouraging moves to boost the population to 15,000 by 2021," Dr Norman says.

"Grandiose plans by the district council to build a mega-sewerage system draining into the Waitangi Wetlands is aimed mostly at supporting wholesale new property development, when the

urgency should be on fixing and maintaining failing plants around the district for the health of existing residents and the environment."

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