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New Bylaw

Is this the real problem?

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Details of the proposals and submission form can be seen here 

CONSULTATION ON WASTEWATER DRAINAGE POLICY AND BYLAW  14.07.2016

Because of their failure to consult properly the commissioners have now extended the consultation period for this statement of proposal until 1 August 2016.

Ratepayers are encouraged to read the proposals, read the criticism on this website and elsewhere, formulate thei own views, and then make submissions to the KDC on or before 1 August.

Details of the proposals and submission form can be seen here .

You are encouraged not to use the KDC submission form as the questions are all geared towards an acceptance of the proposal, with your views only relevant for minor issues.

Earlier posts can be seen on this page - scroll down

The main issues that you need to consider are:

1. Should the commissioners, who have no democratic mandate, be pushing through with indecent haste a new policy and a new bylaw when they only have two months of their regime left?  This is the sort of issue that must be left to a democratically elected council.

2. Do the the presumptions on which the whole proposal is based have any basis in fact?

The proposal is based on two factors:

* The Mangawhai Harbour is polluted

* Onsite sewerage systems are the cause of the problem.

The proposal states categorically:

4.1 Sensitive receiving environments

There is well documented evidence and acceptance that privately owned onsite wastewater systems at Mangawhai have contributed to the degradation of the water quality in the Mangawhai Harbour with associated public health, safety and environmental issues. Onsite wastewater systems are still a concern for the ongoing health of sensitive receiving environments.

Suspecting that there is no such "well documented evidence", I sought more information from the KDC under the Official Information Act..

Below is a reply that I received from Linda Osborne of the Council.

The questions I asked are in bold black, the KDC responses in black, and my further comments in blue.

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KDC RESPONSE TO OIA INQUIRY

1 The name of the author/s of the proposal
The document was developed with the help of an external consultant and one of Council’s policy analyst’s (sic)

Please advise the name of the external consultant and the Council analyst responsible.

Which of them was responsible for the ”well documented evidence” comment?

2 Copies of the “well documented evidence”
There are two sources that documented evidence that on-site wastewater systems at Mangawhai have contributed to the degradation of the water quality. The first was quoted in the Controller and Auditor-Generals Summary Report: Inquiry into the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Scheme. Part 2, Section 2.3 states;

  • "We found that:

There was clear evidence that there was poor water quality in the Mangawhai area and that septic tank effluent was the likely cause”

This is located on page 17 and a copy of the report can be found here:

The response from the Auditor-General’s report of finding “clear evidence” is based on what it was advised by the KDC. Clearly the OAG did not do its own tests and relied on the word of the KDC.

No scientific evidence is presented to substantiate the OAG’s statement. In fact it is circular proof. The OAG relies on the KDC advice and puts it in its report. The KDC then relies on the OAG report to establish the truth of the statement.

If the KDC has scientific evidence (rather than hearsay reports) that establish “clear evidence” then it must come from the KDC, and the KDC should produce it.

The second source were studies during 1996 and 1997, including the Mangawhai Water and Shellfish Quality Survey by the Northland Regional Council. This identified pollution in drains at the Village and Heads was having a significant effect on shellfish in the Harbour. The report concluded that seepage from onsite sewerage systems was the likely cause. The Institute of Environmental Science and Research produced a report on Quality of Water which said the water quality at Mangawhai Heads was poor and the site was polluted.

More information can be found on our webpage, Mangawhai EcoCare from Conception to Handover located here:

The reports are twenty years old and have not been made available.  Reporting the "likely cause" is not well documented evidence..

These sources are quoted second-hand in Attachment 1 in the From Conception to Handover reference.  This is the Statement of Proposal of 2003 prepared by Simon Engineering, the proposed contractor at that stage.  Under 3. Problem Definition it states as a given that the Harbour is polluted and several surveys are referred to.

However Simon Engineering had a vested interest in the Harbour being polluted (so that it could sell its sewerage system) and the references are outdated and are only reported on second-hand.

There are also water quality results published on the Northland Regional Council’s website. The results can be found here:

Their website outlines that even sites with low risk can be unsuitable to swim at from time to time and they recommend that you avoid swimming for 48 hours after heavy rainfall.

The advice from the NRC is so general that it means nothing. There is no suggestion where any pollution might come from. Septic tanks? Bovine discharge? An overflow from EcoCare for which the KDC has discharge permits?

In summary, you cannot cobble together a bunch of unsubstantiated vague claims and urban myths and suggest that they are scientific evidence that (a) establish pollution and (b) identify the cause as private sewerage systems.

There may be some pollution in the Harbour but as yet it is unproved, and there is not a skerrick of evidence to show where it comes from.

If you want the truth on this then I suggest you talk to one of your commissioners, John Robertson.

In December last year he announced the launch of a project to test the waters of the Mangawhai Harbour.

He stated in the Mangawhai Focus:

"While the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Scheme has contributed towards better water quality there is still a lot to learn about the health of the harbour and where any action needs to be focused."

He advised that the project was “aimed at closing the knowledge gap on water quality in the harbour”.

He elaborated:

"You may be surprised to know that little testing has been done in the past; to understand harbour health a systematic and co-ordinated approach is needed that gives us knowledge of trends relating to the harbour’s health. This matter was discovered by the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Panel members who assisted the Council to review the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Scheme earlier this year."

That says it all. And for once I agree with John Robertson. There is no hard evidence of pollution and no evidence of what may cause the pollution, if there is any.

2 Who has “accepted” that evidence?
Both the Northland Regional Council and the Auditor General accepted that there was evidence.

The A-G relied on the KDC’s advice. The NRC has only a vague notion that the waters “may be” polluted but they have no idea what the cause is.

John Robertson says there is no evidence.

3 Who has “expressed ongoing concerns” about private wastewater systems and on what basis?
There are water quality results published on the Northland Regional Council’s website. The results can be found here.

Their website outlines that even sites with low risk can be unsuitable to swim at from time to time and they recommend that you avoid swimming for 48 hours after heavy rainfall.

I quote from the NRC website: “A general picture.” “A cautionary approach.” No hard evidence of the extent of any pollution and no evidence, or even a suggestion, of where it may come from.

The Bylaw is about being proactive in ensuring the environment is not degraded and public health is being maintained. It is also about ensuring we do not get to the stage where there is poor water quality. Maintaining your on-site system is something all property owners District wide with on-site systems should be doing. Sadly there are some that don’t and this Policy and Bylaw allows Council the ability to ensure this happens.

You say you are being protective based on “well documented evidence” that points to the Harbour being polluted and that the cause is on-site systems. The truth is that the report is misleading and deceptive because there is no evidence of either.

The ratepayers of Mangawhai cherish their Harbour and if there were scientific evidence to establish that it is polluted then we would want to know the cause and ensure that steps were taken to protect the Harbour.

To us this another example of deceptive and misleading conduct initiated by the commissioners to achieve an end that has nothing to do with pollution but is more about imposing further costs on ratepayers without a smidgen of justification.

Why are the commissioners not taking action against those who may be responsible for bovine pollution of the Harbour, which is the more likely cause of any pollution, or would that upset some of their mates in the National Party?

The problem is with you guys is that we don’t trust you. EcoCare was driven on the back of the “polluted harbour” catch-cry without any evidence and you are doing it all over again. You appoint a bunch of amateurs to advise on water quality, and accept their advice. You pay a small fortune to so-called expert consultants who proclaim that there is well document evidence when there is nothing.

Even in the face of my criticism you maintain that there is established evidence to prove your conclusions despite the chair of commissioners announcing to the world that there is no evidence.

I remember challenging you years ago on the illegality of the EcoCare rates which you staunchly defended on the basis of statute law and precedent. There was no such basis. The reality was that for over 6 years the KDC flouted the law, but you all had your heads buried in the sand.

My advice is to shelve any proposals you have put forward until you have found out, by the scientific work that you are doing, what the problems are. Once you have defined the problems you can, or at least the new council can, report to ratepayers and advance your proposals for solving the problems.

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CONSULTATION ON WASTEWATER DRAINAGE POLICY AND BYLAW   30.06.2016
For those who missed the previous consultation period for this issue, the matter has been reopened because of the unlawful consultation first time around.

My criticism of Honest John’s consultation process on this matter can be seen in the post THIS IS GOVERNANCE AT ITS WORST on 10.06.2016 (scroll down).

I criticised the fact that he publicly invited ratepayers to have their say and emphasised the importance of their input, but the links to the information on the KDC website were down for part of the consultation period.

The KDC has taken that on board and has now extended the consultation period on this issue until 1 August 2015.

Details of the proposed changes and Bylaw can be seen on the KDC website at YOUR DISTRICT – HAVE YOUR SAY - Consultation, Wastewater Drainage Policy and Bylaw. Or go directly here.

This is a dreadful report and proposal that is based on urban myths and unsubstantiated claims, using the fiction of a degradated Harbour as scare tactics to justify what is nothing more than another ticket-clipping exercise from a desperate council.

The whole scenario of supporting the EcoCare lemon at all costs and dismissing alternative sewerage systems (see Christian Simon's letter in this week’s Focus - Wastewater Policy Flawed), and ignoring bovine pollution, will keep Kaipara poor for decades.

Honest John has done immeasurable damage to our communities and should spend his time packing his bags and leave all outstanding issues for a democratically elected council to resolve in full consultation with ratepayers.

THIS IS GOVERNANCE AT ITS WORST   10.06.2016
Somewhat surprisingly Honest John and his crew decided to introduce a whole new policy and bylaws relating to waste water. This is what the KDC website says:

We want to know what you think about projects and issues that affect our district.

We rely on you to get involved and have your say on the future of your community.

We welcome your input, ideas and suggestions.

Your input and the information you provide will help us with our decisions.

The website includes links to the proposal, the formal statement of proposal, and the public notice.

The only problem was that when I visited the site the links were down and led nowhere. I tried for a few days but without any success. My intention was to do a full report on this website to encourage ratepayers to lodge submissions prior to the closing date.

On 25 May I emailed the KDC advising that the links weren’t working and asked them to advise me when they were working. I received a response on 26 May:

Thank you for your email regarding issues with the Council website.

I have forwarded this issue to the IT Department to investigate.

If you require any further assistance please email council@kaipara.govt.nz or phone 0800 727 059 Monday to Friday 8 am to 4.30 pm.

Regards Fay Fergus

After receiving the letter I tried the website for a few days but the links were still down.

I received no further advice from the KDC advising that the links were fixed. I presumed, wrongly, that it would extend me the courtesy, as I had requested, of advising when the links were functioning.

I have checked today and the links are working. The only problem is that the website states:

Consultation

The submission period has now closed.

The submission period was from 1 May to 1 June and it is unknown how long the links were down during that period.

Now it is unclear whether the broken links was deliberate or whether it was just an IT glitch. One would like to think that it was not deliberate, but, given the track record of Honest John and his mates for governance and transparency, it would not be out of synch with previous performances.

But, whatever the cause of the problem, ratepayers were denied their rights of consultation as required specifically by the Local Government Act and more generally by the obligation of the KDC to act in a transparent way and in accordance with the principles of good governance.

The Local Government Act and the Local Government (Rating) Act introduced new provisions that demanded accountability from local authorities and gave ratepayers the right to extensive consultation before any decisions were made by the council.

The whole accountability process has become a charade with most councils, and the KDC under the commissioners has made an art form of ducking and diving to avoid any accountability. There is a lot of talk and flag-waving about the democratic process of consultation, but the reality is that it is denied by little tricks such as we have here. And any consultation that does take place is simply ignored.

A responsible council would acknowledge the failed consultation in this instance and would re-advertise the proposal with a new consultation period.

But don’t hold your breath. Honest John is not known for his compliance with the law and it will be like water of a duck’s back. Only a few months to go and he will be rid of the whole pathetic saga.

As an aside, one wonders why Honest John is pushing through a proposal of this type just months before he quits.

He has already appointed a chief executive for 4 years who simply does not fit the bill. Now he is introducing new fundamental policies and bylaws. Surely these should have all been left to the new council.

Which leads us into even more major decision-making in respect of the fire service regulations. See the post below.