By DIANE JOYCE – The Dominion Post, 27-04-2010
Hastings District Council has been illegally dumping stormwater into streams and drains for 10 years. This is despite Hawke's Bay Regional Council's demands that it reapply for expired resource consents. Meanwhile, illegal dumping of toxic waste flushed down stormwater systems has killed eels, sometimes by the hundred. It had taken the threat of legal action to get the district council focused, regional council compliance leader Bryce Lawrence said yesterday.
Many of Hastings' original 10 stormwater consents expired nine years ago, five of them 12 years ago.
The regional council wrote to the district council in 2001, urging it to lodge applications, but "something has gone wrong", Mr Lawrence said. The regional council had not taken a hard line with HDC until now, as the paperwork had "always been just on the horizon" and the regional council had had "higher priorities", he said. But after being told it risked being served with an abatement notice or a court order, the district council had now lodged consent applications.
A regional council report on the applications recommended 10-year consents rather than the requested 25, and listed 37 conditions. High on the list of requirements was that the district council educate the public on what could be put down stormwater drains, and monitor high-risk industrial sites.
The report recorded 80 complaints of illegal dumping by businesses and people in the past 10 years – one every 6 1/2 weeks on average. Blood, oil, hot water, ink, paint, ammonia, diesel, chrome, toxic roof wash, sewage, barbecue sauce and pumpkin skins all feature on the list. Industrial sites are blamed for 45 of the spills into stormwater drains. The rest were attributed to individuals, or could not be traced. Ten of the discharge points led to or fed directly into Karamu Stream, going into the Clive River and out to sea. The "degraded" Karamu Stream recorded high levels of zinc, arsenic, copper, lead, cadmium and mercury. Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said it was a good example of why properly functioning regional councils needed to be retained – at a time when some district councils were asking that regional responsibilities be given to a `unitary authority', essentially the district council. "District councils are polluting all over the place and want regional councils off their backs, and if [regional councils] aren't doing their job then they need to be made to." District councils had the responsibility and the resources to monitor what went into their stormwater drains, "and that's the bottom line". The district council had until this Friday to respond to the regional council report, after which independent commissioners would decide on the application. District council officers did not respond to calls yesterday. Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said he was unaware of the situation and could not comment.