Archive | Water

Councillors get confidential report on way forward as St Marys Bay sewage project heads to Environment Court

4 objections have been lodged with the Environment Court against Auckland Council’s plan to dig a giant drain under houses along the St Mary’s Bay ridge, aimed at improving stormwater & sewage flows into the Waitemata Harbour.

Above: An aerial image showing where the 1km drain would be constructed.

The council’s Healthy Waters general manager, Craig McIlroy, told the strategic procurement committee yesterday 2 community organisations & 2 individuals had lodged objections, and the council had asked the court to set up a mediation process.

In his report to the committee, Mr McIlroy said the aim was to have the drain working by the end of 2020, meeting a timeframe for a number of large infrastructure projects to be in place before the America’s Cup yachting event, meeting of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation, to meet in Auckland, Wellington & Christchurch) and biennial Te Matatini festival, all in 2021.

The project involves the construction of a new trunk sewer to capture current overflows and divert them to a new pump station at Point Erin. When the capacity of the pump station is exceeded, overflows will go to a new sea outfall from Point Erin to deeper moving water in the harbour.

The key ingredient of the $30 million-plus project is a 1km conveyance & storage pipeline (1.8m internal diameter, about 2500mᶟ capacity) extending from New St to Pt Erin Park, underground & beneath residential properties, recreation areas & road reserve, with an invert depth ranging between 5m and up to 22m deep. (Check the 14 November story link below for further details of the project proposal).

The St Marys Bay & Point Erin improvement project went to a hearing by independent commissioners in November. They approved it on 9 November, but objectors were then heard by the council’s regulatory committee a week later. The committee deliberated in private, didn’t issue a decision in a minute but said the decision would be made public within a week.

Although that didn’t appear to have happened, committee chair Cllr Linda Cooper told me the committee had confirmed the commissioners’ decision. The project was back before the strategic procurement committee yesterday – starting in public then going to the confidential section of the agenda for discussion of financial implications, risks & mitigations arising from procurement of the project and next steps for procurement.

Mr McIlroy outlined the present situation in his report to the procurement committee: “At present, a combined sewer network carrying both stormwater & wastewater services about 15,000 households in central Auckland, including St Marys Bay. The network is very close to capacity and combined sewer overflows are frequent, with increasing public concern regarding these and pressure to reduce them.

“The St Marys Bay area experiences high frequencies of wastewater overflows from mainly 3 engineered overflow points. A further 2 discharge onto Masefield Beach.

“The St Marys Bay & Masefield Beach water quality improvement project has been designed to resolve these issues. It is the first major project to be funded through the council’s new water quality targeted rate and forms part of the broader western isthmus water quality improvement programme.”

Mr McIlroy said that, through undertaking this project, “further improvements to the combined network can take place without continued contamination of these beaches. This is important as the full suite of proposed solutions will take some time to implement.”

He said the regulatory committee had noted in its deliberations that “they do not think there is a causal link between the works & ‘cliff instability due to the depth at which the pipeline will be installed, the construction methodology, monitoring & the technology used.’”

Earlier story:
14 November 2018: Tank to solve western isthmus overflows approved, round 2 begins Friday

Attribution: Council committee meeting, agenda, hearing documents.

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Tank to solve western isthmus overflows approved, round 2 begins Friday

Objectors to a stormwater & sewage holding tank to be built under expensive houses along the St Marys Bay ridge overlooking the Westhaven marina had their complaints rejected by a hearing panel last Friday, but a council committee will be back to hear them again this Friday.

Auckland Council’s regulatory committee has called a special meeting to hear objections, and to rule on them in a confidential session the same day.

As with the original hearing decision, the recommendation before the committee is to proceed with the project.

At stake is a $30 million-plus project designed to reduce – close to zero – the frequency of sewage spills into the Waitemata Harbour.

At stake from the property owners’ points of view are:

  • Loss of property value through potential development restriction
  • Extreme, unavoidable stench through vents
  • Concerns about cliff stability
  • Construction impacts, including the fear that the foundations of old houses along the route will be disturbed, and

On top of those questions is the issue of separation of storm- & wastewater – required of property owners in this area for the last 20 years when renovating, altering or redeveloping their properties, only to become mixed again at the gate.

Mr Hill commented on separation in the panel decision: “While we might accept the sincerity of the applicant’s (the council’s) assurance that this proposal is a stepping stone to that eventual outcome, the political history of this issue, as amply demonstrated by the submitters, gives no such assurance.”

Against the council desire to move forward with this project now, submitters also suggested further review, including alternatives, benefits & costs, ought to be undertaken.

However, Mr Hill said the panel had no lawful basis for requiring the application to be suspended for further analysis.

The objective of healthy waters

Auckland Council renamed & refocused its stormwater department, calling it the Healthy Waters department (Wai Ora – Healthy Waterways), in a bid to – at long last – rid the western isthmus in particular of the extremely frequent overflows arising when a deluge of rain hits the dual-purpose sewage & stormwater drains.

For years, local body politicians have fallen short of meeting the dirty-water challenge, limiting the budget and thereby ensuring the certainty of continuing spills by not separating sewage from stormwater.

But councils are now required to abide by the 2014 national policy statement for freshwater management in full by the end of 2025.

In Auckland, the Western Isthmus Water Quality Improvement Work Programme is the largest workstream funded through the targeted rate. Its aim is to progressively reduce overflows into the Waitemata Harbour from hundreds of events to 6 or fewer/outfall/year.

Auckland Council figured, at the end of 2015, it couldn’t meet the national policy statement conditions then, and set about establishing programmes last year so it could meet the policy.

Analysing the watersheds

The council has divided Auckland into 10 watersheds, where water drains to a stream, or ultimately to the harbour or open sea, and has drawn up this staged approach:

  1. Mapping the current state & key issues for each watershed
  2. Determining how to achieve the objectives & consulting the community, and
  3. Developing action plans to meet objectives, limits & targets set in collaboration with key stakeholders.

According to the outline on the council website, the third of those stages should be reached by 2020.

The hearing on the St Marys Bay project was held in September, with a final day in late October, and the hearing panel issued its decision on Friday 9 November. The panel was chaired by David Hill with panellists Mark Farnsworth, Dr Sharon De Luca & Nigel Mark-Brown.

Part of the wider western isthmus programme

The project is part of the wider St Marys Bay improvement programme which aims to improve water quality within St Marys Bay. It’s also part of the western isthmus water quality improvement programme for the wider combined sewer network catchment area, and it’s been designed to integrate with all potential long-term options to improve the network without constraining finalisation of a preferred solution.

It involves reconfiguring the Healthy Waters stormwater network, which is also used by the council-controlled Watercare Services Ltd as a means of safely conveying overflow discharges from 5 engineered overflow points in the combined sewer network, returning these overflows back into Watercare’s branch 5 sewer for treatment at the Mangere wastewater treatment plant when there is capacity.

Any residual combined sewer overflow would be discharged into the Waitemata Harbour via a new, longer marine pipeline that will replace the existing failed outfall at Masefield Beach, which would be removed.

The reconfigured network would enable combined sewer overflows to be captured & stored within the pipeline and returned to the sewer when it has capacity, for subsequent treatment at Mangere. As Mr Hill noted in the hearing decision: “This will significantly reduce the number of combined sewer overflows occurring from approximately an average of 206/year (into St Marys Bay & Masefield Beach) to approximately an average of 20/year. In addition, the replacement outfall will extend further into the Waitemata Harbour, such that when overflows do occur during larger rainfall events this will enable better dilution & dispersion.”

Additional information provided at the hearing indicated that the Masefield Beach outfall “currently discharges combined sewer overflows onto Masefield Beach approximately an average of 107 overflows/year”; and that the expected results would reduce the estimated current average annual overflow discharge volume from this part of the network to the harbour from 101,800mᶟ to 35,000mᶟ, and the proportionate contribution from domestic wastewater in those volumes from 18,300mᶟ to 700mᶟ”.

The project requires:

  • a 1km conveyance & storage pipeline (1.8m internal diameter, about 2500mᶟ capacity) extending from New St to Pt Erin Park, underground & beneath residential properties, recreation areas & road reserve, with an invert depth ranging between 5m and up to 22m deep
  • weir structures, pump stations & odour control units in Pt Erin Park & St Marys Rd Park
  • 4 (subsequently reduced to 3) air exchange poles, 8-10m high, within the road reserve on New St & London St
  • construction of shafts in Pt Erin Park (8m deep), St Marys Rd Park (9m diameter by 8m deep) and the New St/London St intersection (5m diameter by 24m deep)
  • a new 750mm internal diameter gravity pipeline along Sarsfield & Curran Sts connecting engineered overflow points 194 & 196 directly to the Pt Erin Park pump station
  • installation of a new 500m long by 150mm internal diameter rising main between Pt Erin Park & Sarsfield St, connecting to Watercare’s branch 5 sewer
  • connections to the new conveyance & storage pipeline from 5 engineered overflow points (points 194 & 196 (Sarsfield St), 172 (London St), 180 (Hackett St) & 1020 (New St)) – with point 180 remaining operational
  • construction of a new 450m by 1.4m internal diameter marine outfall pipeline with diffusers in the coastal management area off Masefield Beach, and
  • removal of the existing failed Masefield Beach 300mm outfall pipeline.

The panel concluded that, while separation is referred to, this would not be a wastewater facility because the volumes of wastewater overflow would be low.

The panel also concluded that the air discharge from the storage tank (distinct from a pipeline where the contents are continuously flushed away) would pass the required odour standard.

Experienced civil engineer Ross Thurlow proffered an alternative to eliminate the tunnelled detention tank & above-ground ventilation poles & electrically driven ventilators. But the panel concluded that his option of an odour ventilation pipe inside an enlarged pipe tunnel with discharge at Pt Erin would require too long a tunnel and would not be viable.

On the issue of land settlement once the tunnel has been put in place, the predicted settlement effects were very low ad the panel accepted that any adverse effects would be detected early to allow appropriate mitigation measures to be put in place.

The panel also accepted that neither the shaft nor tunnel construction would cause groundwater changes that would adversely affect cliff stability. Overall, on stability, the panel said: “We find the investigations sufficiently detailed to allow reasonable predictions of settlement & stability effects. These can & will be further managed through consent conditions, including implementation of a groundwater & settlement monitoring & contingency plan and a construction noise & vibration plan to measure actual behaviours of the ground in terms of groundwater levels, vibration & settlement that will allow early detection and, if necessary, implementation of mitigation measures should the works cause unexpected effects that could affect existing buildings, utilities & roads, or cliff stability.”

The final paragraph of the decision sums up the resource management issues: “While the proposed development does not achieve the outcome sought by many submitters specific to the network discharges management solution advanced in the application, it is a significant improvement over the existing coastal marine discharge situation and, we were assured, is not the end of the matter as far as council (Healthy Waters) is concerned. We have accepted that assurance and, in that context, agree that it represents an appropriate sustainable management response to the identified problem and ‘promotes’ the purpose & principles of part 2 of the Resource Management Act.”

The next round, on Friday, takes the council into more complicated territory, away from the project itself and into the realm of values.

9 November 2018: Hearing decision
Hearing documents
Auckland Council, Looking after our waterways
Regulatory committee agenda, 16 November 2018
7, Objections to St Marys Bay & Masefield Beach improvement project
Maps showing project overview & objectors’ properties
Options analysis for location of new infrastructure
Examples of formal notices sent to residents under the Local Government Act 2002
Copies of all objections received
Record of communications
Engineering assessments & review of development controls for each property
C1, Deliberations on objections to St Mary’s Bay & Masefield Beach improvement project (in confidential agenda)

Attribution: Hearing documents & decision, committee agenda.

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Government says new freshwater standards robust & clear, EDS says omissions mean more litigation

The Government announced national standards for freshwater yesterday that Environment Minister Amy Adams & Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said were clear, robust and would make a significant improvement to the way freshwater is managed.

Environmental Defence Society chairman Gary Taylor said setting national bottom lines for some freshwater quality parameters was a significant step forward, but the society remained concerned whether the detail would in fact lead to the water quality improvements New Zealanders are demanding.

Ms Adams said: “Ensuring an ongoing & reliable supply of healthy water is one of the most important environmental & economic issues facing New Zealand today. It is critical that we protect & improve the water quality that we all care so much about.”

And Mr Guy said the changes balanced economic growth with environmental sustainability: “It’s not an either-or situation – we need both. Primary industries contribute more than 76% of our merchandise exports and largely depend on freshwater, while tourism also relies on the beauty of New Zealand’s water bodies.

“We all want sustainable & profitable primary industries. That will mean changes to some of our farming practices, but I know farmers are up for the challenge.”

The national objectives framework under the amended national policy statement for freshwater management requires rivers & lakes to have minimum requirements that must be achieved so the water quality is suitable for ecosystem & human health.

Ms Adams said: “In 2011, the Government required councils to maintain or improve the water quality in their lakes, rivers, wetlands & aquifers across their region. If their water quality is already above the national standard, it cannot be allowed to deteriorate. However, where a water body currently falls below the national standard, councils & communities will need to ensure that the standard is met over sensible & realistic timeframes.”

She said she was considering applications from regional councils for $1.1 million of funding for activities that support regional planning & community participation in freshwater management, and decisions would be announced soon.

The Government also released a high-level snapshot yesterday of the freshwater reform programme, Delivering freshwater reform.

Taylor: Framework omissions mean more litigation

The Environmental Defence Society chairman said the creation of a national objectives framework was a key recommendation of the Land & Water Forum: “Submitters said they wanted to be able to swim in lakes & rivers close to where they live. However, the national policy statement includes a new objective to ‘safeguard the health of people & communities, at least as affected by secondary contact with fresh water’.

“This means there is no national requirement for lakes & rivers to be swimmable because secondary contact is limited to wading. This means communities will need to fight for the right to swim in local lakes & rivers. Instead of giving New Zealanders certainty, this means we will have to continue to engage in litigation.”

The society was also concerned the national objectives framework didn’t provide national bottom lines consistent with the national policy statement objective of safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of freshwater bodies: “The macro-invertebrate index (MCI, a measure of invertebrates living in rivers) is the best way to measure ecosystem health. Despite cross-sector agreement in the Land & Water Forum on the need to include MCI, ministers appear to have vetoed its inclusion in the national objectives framework.

“The framework puts in place a national bottom line for nitrogen toxicity. This is a big problem. The board of inquiry which recently heard the Tukituki catchment proposal rejected proposed nitrogen toxicity limits, deciding that dissolved inorganic nitrogen limits are required to maintain ecosystem health. This is the case throughout New Zealand.

“The inclusion of a national bottom line for nitrogen toxicity means there is a risk regional councils will view this as an appropriate limit. We are going to have to argue for nitrogen limits that will achieve ecosystem health in each freshwater planning process. Instead of providing certainty, this omission means we will have to continue to engage in litigation.

“There are a number of Land & Water Forum recommendations still to be implemented, including a new collaborative freshwater plan-making process. Unfortunately, legislation to implement collaborative plan-making has been held up due to the Government’s fixation on amending part 2 of the Resource Management Act.”

Links: National policy statement for freshwater management
Delivering freshwater reform

Attribution: Ministerial & EDS releases.

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Watercare’s developer levy rises 23.5% next week

Watercare Services Ltd will raise the infrastructure growth charges it imposes for development by 23.5% for metropolitan customers from next Tuesday, 1 July.

Around most of the rest of the region the increase is about 2.4%.

The Property Council criticised the price hike this week, saying it would feed directly into housing inflation at a time when both the Government and Watercare’s owner, Auckland Council, have been promoting efforts to improve housing affordability.

The metropolitan infrastructure growth charge will rise from $9775 to $12,075/household unit equivalent, including gst.

The Property Council said the Watercare fee was the same as development contributions charged by councils, although technically it might not be considered the same under the Local Government Act: both levies fed directly into housing cost at the start of development.

Watercare says on its website the infrastructure growth charge applies to all new connections to the network, and to existing properties which are redeveloped, which increase the demand on infrastructure: “The infrastructure growth charge means the necessary upgrades will be paid for by people who increase demand on the system, rather than placing the burden of costs on existing customers or leaving them to the next generation.”

The charge is intended to recover capital investment costs. Operating costs associated with new infrastructure are funded from water & wastewater consumption charges.

Attribution: Property Council release, Watercare website.

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Watercare moves to monthly billing in August

Published 27 May 2012

Watercare Services Ltd said on Friday it would move to a monthly billing cycle in August.

Watercare has been billing customers every 3 or 6 months, depending on the billing cycles of the former councils.

Chief financial officer Brian Monk said customers would receive a one-off bill in July which was likely to cover an irregular period such as 36, 51 or 108 days to account for the transition to the new billing cycle. They’d receive their first monthly bill in August.

He said the change followed overwhelming public feedback in favour of monthly billing.

Want to comment? Go to the forum.


Attribution: Company release, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.

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Government introduces regulations to meter large water takes

Published 4 May 2010

The Government has approved regulations requiring all significant water takes to be metered as part of a wider programme to improve freshwater management.


Environment Minister Nick Smith said on Friday: "We can’t even begin to manage water properly in New Zealand when we have so little information on how much is extracted & when. It is estimated that only 31% of water taken nationally is metered. These regulations will ensure 92% by 2012, 96% by 2014 & 98% by 2016."


The Resource Management Act (water metering) regulations will come into effect on 1 July, requiring all water takes of more than 20 litres/second to be metered within 2 years, water takes of more than 10l/sec to be metered within 4 years and water takes of more than 5l/sec to be metered within 6 years. 


These regulations don’t cover small takes for domestic use – 5l/sec is the amount of water used by about 250 households.


Dr Smith said: "Water is a public resource and it is quite reasonable for the Government to require those who use it to pay for measuring & reporting how much they take. Economic analysis shows that water use is worth more than $5 billion/year to the economy, and only a small improvement in efficiency makes this investment in improved information well worthwhile.


"A national regulation is a far more efficient way of getting water measured, rather than leaving the decision & timing to each individual regional council. Regional councils have only been able to require metering for new consents or renewals, meaning it would take more than 25 years to get accurate figures on water use. It is also more efficient to have a consistent national standard for water meter accuracy & reporting systems.


"These regulations are the result of thorough consultation on a discussion document with irrigators, industry, councils, iwi & environmental organisations. There is strong support among sector organisations for the need for a national approach & these regulations. The Government has included pragmatic exemptions to ensure the cost is only being incurred where there are real benefits.


"These metering regulations are the first step in the Government’s plans to improve New Zealand’s freshwater management. Wider issues covering improved regulation on water quality, better systems for water allocation and simpler processes for advancing sustainable storage schemes will be undertaken after the Land & Water Forum has reported to the Government in July."


Dr Smith said the regulations would cost consent holders about $40 million. Specific costs to consent holders would include:

initial capital costs associated to install water-measuring equipment, estimated at $2855-9635, depending on how much is taken$200/year for data download, processing & provision of data to councils, andaverage calibration costs of $425-2200 every 5 years.


Holders of existing qualifying consents will have a transition period of 2-6 years, the shorter timeframe being for larger takes. Houses won’t have to be metered.

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ARC campaigned against zinc, now it’s moved on to copper

Published 30 October 2005

The Auckland Regional Council wants people to start using low-impact design practices to stop copper getting into waterways. Cllr Dianne Glenn, chairman of the council’s environmental management committee, made the suggestion on Friday in response to research indicating copper was heading to toxic levels.

Known sources of copper in Auckland’s waterways are car brake linings & run-off from building materials such as copper spouting & roofs, marina dry docks and soil disturbance on historic horticultural sites.

Cllr Glenn said 2 effective ways of preventing copper from entering stormwater drains, which ultimately drain to the sea, are to use alternative materials that don’t contain copper, or ensure onsite treatment of copper run-off.

“Low-impact design practices such as rain gardens, roof gardens, swales, filter strips & reducing paved surfaces are all ways of preventing pollutants like copper from getting into our waterways. The ARC is currently working with local councils & developers to see how we can mainstream source control and use low-impact design practices such as these,” Cllr Glenn said.

Regional stormwater action team leader Earl Shaver said copper has been identified in the council’s long-term marine sediment monitoring programme as the 2nd-highest priority contaminant after zinc under the regional stormwater action plan, established in February to improve Auckland’s stormwater quality.

“Although copper concentration levels in sediment are lower than zinc, their rate of increase is now almost on a par with it, and this is very worrying because copper is around 10 times more toxic than zinc to aquatic life such as shellfish & fish, and therefore potentially harmful right up the food chain including to humans,” Mr Shaver said.

Cllr Glenn said it was important to move quickly on copper because it was so much more toxic than zinc: “It’s a well known fact that copper is the active ingredient in anti-foulant boat paint because marine animals are so sensitive to it. If we want to protect the kiwi way of life when it comes to recreating in & enjoying our waterways, and our own health, then we need to start thinking about how our actions are affecting our harbours, streams & estuaries.”

If you want to comment on this story, write to the BD Central Discussion forum or send an email to [email protected].

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Development levy suggested for creating impervious surfaces

Water review group releases recommendations

A water industry review has recommended charging developers — including government organisations & councils — according to the amount of impervious surface they create.

Impervious surfaces such as roads, paved parking & roof areas have much higher rates of water run-off than soil or vegetated surfaces, significantly increase the quantity of water flowing into the region’s stormwater systems, and heighten the risk of flooding & contaminants being flushed into natural waterways & harbours.

The Auckland region water, wastewater & stormwater review was begun in 1999 by 6 of the region’s 7 councils (Rodney, North Shore, Waitakere, Auckland, Manukau & Papakura, Franklin excepted) to examine long-term water industry issues.

The review’s findings & draft framework for action will be discussed in detail by each council over the next month before they decide what steps to take next.

Public consultation was undertaken last year, initial findings were discussed in council workshops in March & April, and a regional workshop involving wider interests was held in April.

The review report going to the councils now says they should work together to investigate introducing “impervious surface charges” for stormwater as the region’s urban population & rate of development increase.

The report said a system of charges linked to the amount of impervious surface in a development would improve environmental outcomes by modifying the behaviour of developers to consider run-off issues, and provide funding to improve stormwater infrastructure.

The review also recommends:

Councils should work co-operatively in operational, policy & planning areas to achieve better environmental, social & economic outcomes for councils, ratepayers & the general public

Setting up a new body — the Auckland Water Office — to monitor the industry and function as an independent watchdog on industry issues, such as pricing policies & consumer protection. Funded by the councils and established for an initial 12-month trial period, the office would facilitate closer relationships & co-operation between the industry operators & councils. It would also provide expert information & technical support to bodies such as the Watercare Services Ltd shareholder representative group

Putting in place a better mechanism to ensure Maori have input on the management of water-industry issues. At present, iwi are involved on a council-by-council basis, and the review recommends that a more efficient regionwide approach be taken.Once the councils have considered the review findings at meetings and workshops over the next month, they will decide how best to implement the recommendations.

This may include formulating a heads of agreement to establish the Auckland Water Office, and another heads of agreement between councils & iwi to establish a mutually beneficial framework for iwi involvement in the industry.

In addition to the possible impervious surface charges, review issues included:

Whether or not to amalgamate existing operators into a single regional council-controlled body handling all aspects of the water industry

Whether an independent industry regulator is required

How best to improve collaboration between council-owned water & wastewater operators, particularly with regard to planning capital & operational expenditure

Establishing a uniform regional policy for user charges

And, how best to ensure iwi involvement in industry issues.During the earlier council workshops it became clear not all the councils would support the option of amalgamating existing industry operators, such as Watercare Services and the individual council-owned operators, into a single regionwide entity. Some amalgamations may still be considered.

The steering group’s report, Auckland region water, wastewater & stormwater review: Findings & recommendations to councils (March 2002), can be accessed along with other background information about the water industry review process at the review’s website.

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