On Monday, the Otago Regional Council (ORC) recommended that Hearing Commissioners decline a consent application by the Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) to discharge wastewater overflows into freshwater receiving environments.
The report cites three reasons for the recommendation: 1) The activity is inconsistent with relevant statutory requirements, including the Resource Management Act 1992 (RMA); 2) The activity is contrary to Section 107 of the RMA (which sets out restrictions on the granting of certain discharge permits); and 3) The effects of the activity are more than minor and potentially significant.
ORC general manager regulatory, Richard Saunders, said the report was part of a clear process. “Staff have followed statutory guidelines to prepare this report and to arrive at their recommendation. This involved consideration of the application, submissions, the effects of the activity in question, and all relevant planning documents.”
The report stated, "we consider that the applicant has not adequately assessed all alternatives." The Wānaka Sun asked QLDC, aside from rebuilding the entire infrastructure network, what other alternatives did they not adequately assess, however they simply responded, “QLDC is currently reviewing the report and considering its response to the s42A Report. QLDC will be providing that response via its evidence for the upcoming hearing.”
Don Robertson, chair of Guardians of Lake Wānaka and ex chief scientist for NIWA, said, “QLDC’s consultants Beca Ltd produced almost 300 pages of documents including a consent application, an assessment of environmental effects and a microbial assessment. The consent application frequently invokes parts of the Resource Management Act (RMA) in
support of the request for consent.”
Robertson continues, “However, the ORC in its formal response to the QLDC application also strongly invokes the RMA to recommend that the application be declined. They state that the ‘effects of the activity have not been quantified and, based on the limited information provided, the application is overwhelmingly inconsistent will all relevant planning documents[...]’ This conclusion is consistent with the concerns expressed in the joint submission made by the Guardians of Lake Wānaka, the Guardians of Lake Hāwea and the Upper Clutha Lakes Trust.”
Julie Perry from Upper Clutha Lakes Trust said, “Whether or not the consent is ultimately granted, our community has clearly signaled that it does not want wastewater flowing into lakes and rivers. We encourage QLDC to move ahead with plans to improve the wastewater network and to take all steps necessary to ensure that any future spillage or release of sewage into water is managed with minimal impact.” she said.
The recommending report is evidence that will be considered by a Hearing Panel. The Hearing Panel, made up of independent decision-makers, will consider the staff recommendation alongside other evidence. The Applicant and submitters will be able to respond to the report in their hearing evidence.
However, it should be cautioned not to consider ORC’s report a foregone conclusion. Earlier this year, QLDC’s Sarah Gathercole wrote a staff recommendation that the Northlake Hotel application should be declined however, the commissioners felt differently and the hotel proceeded.