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Council Accepts Prosecution Ruling

July 07, 2020

Council accepts prosecution ruling for untreated Wastewater discharge

Rangitīkei District Council accepts the ruling made in the Palmerston North District Court on Tuesday, 6 July, where it received a fine of $60,000, a reduced amount which recognised the Council’s early guilty plea to the charges laid by Horizons Regional Council (Horizons).

Notes of Judge B P Dwyer on Sentencing [PDF]

In 2019 Horizons advised the Council that complaints had been received from the public that untreated wastewater was being discharged into the Hautapu Stream in Taihape.

The Council immediately analysed its data set from the Pump Station, which revealed it was impossible that the Pump Station was the source of the problem, so further investigation was immediately undertaken. It was then identified there was a rogue pipe connection, not identified on its building plans, to another maintenance hole, so immediate steps were taken to block that overflow pipe, and the problem was corrected.

The Council assessed the discharge would have been irregular, infrequent and occurred predominantly during periods of high flow in the Hautapu Stream. The environmental effects were probably temporary and non-enduring, and discharges did not occur during the bathing season, but Mayor Andy Watson acknowledges discharges of this type always present a risk to human health. “While the volumes appear to have been small, they did occur over an extended period.”

Following advice from Horizons the Council implemented steps to improve the network and promptly acknowledged its wrongdoing and its remorse for the discharges.

The Council has programmed the upgrade of the Taihape Pump Station infrastructure in the 2020/21 financial year, which will provide a higher level of service and significantly reduce any environmental risk. The work will be done in conjunction with an upgrade of the Wastewater Treatment Plant for Taihape.

Mayor Andy Watson said, “The Council understands the importance of restoring its relationship with tangata whenua and will take part in a restorative justice process with both tangata whenua and Horizons to identify the best way to use the fine to benefit the community.”