What’s the Council’s target for limiting wastewater overflows?  Does it meet this target?

In the last Long Term Plan the Council set a ‘Level of Service’ of no more than 5 overflows per 1,000 wastewater connections during dry weather. This Level of Service target is currently being met. We reported 2.97 overflows per 1,000 connections (33 overflows) during dry weather in 2015/16.

The approximate breakdown of dry weather overflows across the district is:

 

Huntly 10
Ngaruawahia  12
Raglan 3
Te Kauwhata 2
Tuakau 5
Meremere 1
 TOTAL 33

 

How many wastewater overflows have we had altogether?

There were a total of 59 overflows in 2015/16 including overflows during periods of wet weather. These included 5 overflows into Raglan Harbour and 3 into other waterways. All the others have been small spills onto dry land and easily rectified. They have been in areas all around the district.

 

The approximate breakdown of all overflows across the district is:

 

Town  Dry Weather  Wet Weather  Total  
Horotiu 0 1 1
Huntly 10 9 19
Meremere 1 0 1
Ngaruawahia  12 0 12
Raglan 3 10 13
Taupiri 0 2 2
Te Kauwhata 2 1 3
Tuakau 5 3 8
TOTAL 33 26 59

 

Why haven’t we heard about this before?

We report our overflows in the Council’s Annual Report every year.  Only spills that reach a waterway are notified to Waikato Regional Council and these attract more attention.  Most overflows are small spills on land that are quickly and easily cleaned up.

If the Council is meeting its targets, why does it need to change?

The Council came under considerable criticism over wastewater overflows last year. It also received a formal warning from Waikato Regional Council following the spills which temporarily forced the closure of Raglan Harbour for swimming and the collection of seafood.

The Council commissioned an independent report (the Jacobs Report) to get external advice on the issue, and so we’re now asking for your opinion about making some changes recommended to us.

Is this just about Raglan?

You can see from the tables above that Ngaruawahia has as many spills as Raglan and Huntly has even more.  This is a district-wide problem and a district-wide works programme to tackle it.

Why is this happening now?

Previous Councils have tried to keep rates down in past years and we have now reached a point of having to make some hard decisions.

What’s causing the overflows?

81% are due to blockages, 8% are due to mains breaks and 11% are due to pump station faults. 

All future wastewater works programmes will include a public education programme to educate our community about what can and can’t be flushed down the wastewater system.  Cleaning and data collection (jetting and CCTV) programmes have been designed to identify any network issues causing blockages.

What are the options?

There are three options offering work programmes that range from (1) mitigating key risks of overflows, (2) investigating a wider programme focussed on protecting all our waterways including our lakes and rivers or (3) investigating a continuous improvement programme district-wide.  The details are in the consultation document.

Is there an option offering no changes?

No, but Option 1 is the least cost option. This will mitigate key risks of overflows, re-balance our maintenance budgets, and enable us to follow the latest Ministry of Health guidelines to separate our wastewater operations from our water supply operations.  The Council made a decision in December to start some of this work.  That decision is costing $67 per connection and forms part of Option 1.  Option 1 is adding a total of $112.58 to the planned district-wide wastewater rate for 2017/18 bringing it up from $752.68 to $865.26.

What do the other options cost?

Option 2 will cost $896.62 per wastewater connection and Option 3 will cost $920.66 per connection.  It’s important you check out what’s on offer under each option. The overall impact on your rates depends on your property valuation, location, and the other services you receive.  Check out our online rates calculator at www.waikatodistrict.govt.nz/rid

I rent.  Is this going to affect me?

The increase will be added onto your landlords rates, your landlord may choose to increase your rent to cover this. We encourage you to talk to your landlord.

I have a septic tank. Does this affect me?

If you have a septic tank and you do NOT pay a targeted wastewater rate then this change does not affect you.  If you have a septic tank, but you are within 30 metres of a public wastewater drain, then you will already be paying a wastewater ‘availability’ rate which is 50% of the wastewater rate for properties connected to the wastewater system. The availability rate will change according to the full rate for a wastewater connection.

Can I disconnect from the wastewater system?

It would be extremely difficult for some residents to obtain a resource consent for a septic tank, and it would be more expensive to install one anyway.

Is this the only rates rise?  How will this affect me overall?

To see the impact on your rates go to www.waikatodistrict.govt.nz/rid

How am I going to pay for this?

  1. Council provides several options for paying your rates so that you can spread out your payments throughout the year.
  2. You can go to the Department of Internal Affairs online calculator to find out if you qualify for a rates rebate (http://www.dia.govt.nz/Services-Rates-Rebate-Scheme-Index).
  3. If your financial circumstances affect your ability to pay your rates there is an option to postpone the whole or part of your rates for an agreed period of time is available IF you meet the conditions and criteria outlined in Council’s postponement policy – Financial Hardship.  This policy can be found on page 217 of our Long Term Plan at www.waikatodistrict.govt.nz/10years

Are other Councils having these problems?  How does Waikato District Council compare?

Other Councils throughout New Zealand report wastewater overflows and it’s becoming an issue. We currently report the second highest number of wastewater overflows compared with other similar-sized councils.  However, unlike some councils, we report every overflow regardless of its location, size or effect.

Why are Waikato District Council’s water and wastewater rates so expensive?

We have one of the lowest-density wastewater networks in the country with fewer than 33 connections per kilometre (on average).  Our district is made up of small townships and settlements, many of which have their own separate facilities.