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Water, water, everywhere

See the previous posts in this series: What we have and what we need in February 2018 and Why more houses here? Those posts looked at what we currently have and what we need, and what the Council plans with regard to rezoning land for additional housing. My opinion is that their plans are flawed and will destroy what is unique to our community and threaten our environment.

This post is a bit long. If you don't want to read it all, jump to my conclusion.

Page 12 of the Infrastructure Strategy (PDF, 3MB) document says:

To promote growth in the District, Council has planned various new water and wastewater schemes for communities not currently served.

That includes us.

Page 13 of that document goes on to say:

In the long term it is expected climate change will have two principal impacts on the Horowhenua District — an increased risk from severe natural hazards, and a gradual change in environmental conditions such as rainfall and tide levels.

Over the next 40 years it is expected … heavy rain will become more frequent, and average rainfall will increase.

A study by Horizons Regional Council shows there is likely to be an impact within the next 30 to 50 years on coastal areas, from a combination of rising tides and coastal erosion. Areas of land in Waitārere, Waikawa and Foxton Beaches have been predicted to be at risk from storm surge and inundation.

Actually, we don't need to wait 40 years to see the coastal erosion that has already removed metres of sand from some properties and eaten our vehicle entrance. The Waikawa Beach Ratepayers Association has been talking to the Council about these issues for years now.

Warning 1 metre drop eroded foreshore.

WARNING 1 metre drop Eroded foreshore. Goodbye vehicle entrance, thanks to ex TC Gita in February 2018.

But that's not really the water we need to talk about in this blog post, except to say the Council should be putting more funding into dealing with coastal erosion. The water we're talking about is drinking water, waste water and storm water.

Water supply restrictions are common in Horowhenua.

Water supply restrictions are common in Horowhenua.

The data we have

Here are some key things the Council say in their planning documents, especially the Infrastructure Strategy document:

  1. A considerable amount of development occurred 60-70 years ago (pre-amalgamations), meaning the District has old and aging infrastructure. … Over the next 30 years the District will need to proactively replace many assets as they reach the end of their useful life. (Page 5)
  2. Does the infrastructure create effects or impacts that erode the quality of our natural environment? Does the method of maintaining or constructing this infrastructure have local or global impacts environmentally, socially or economically? (Page 6)
  3. Sustainable infrastructure solutions should: promote the efficient and effective use of resources; … avoid, mitigate and remedy any adverse effect on the environment; and promote the creation of liveable communities with a sense of place and identity. (Page 6)
  4. With new schemes come additional costs to ratepayers and there is a risk around rates affordability becoming an issue for Horowhenua’s ageing population. (Page 12)
  5. Council has historically fallen short in the level of renewals required to keep networks in appropriate condition and performance levels. (Page 13)
  6. The backlog of about $22.5 million for the water supply network has been adjusted equally over the planning period of 30 years. A further issue is increasing restrictions on the water source under Horizons Regional Council’s One Plan. The One Plan also seeks to make Council and the Community increasingly conscious of the amount of water being used and to lower the rates of unauthorised or wasteful water use. (Page 18)
  7. An infrequent and irregular rainfall pattern over the last year has posed issues for the water supply schemes. Council issued “boil water notices” to various schemes during times of heavy rainfall which caused high turbidity in raw water. Similarly, during dry periods Council has issued “conserve water notices” for various water supply schemes. Council has identified the risk of long dry periods and raw water availability for the District and hence will explore options of identifying a new raw water source and a storage reservoir. The high level cost of which are $35million and about $100million. These costs are not part of the current financial strategy. Council will first explore the options available for new raw water source and a storage reservoir and also understand the cost implications and then look for funding options. (Page 18)
  8. Drinking Water Waikawa Beach Preferred Option: Investigation and design of proposed new water supply schemes. Year 1-3 $76,840
    Construction for both existing settlements and growth areas. Year 10-16 $7,975,460
    There will be water supply network upgrade requirements at Levin and Foxton Beach to service growth areas. Year 1-12 $6,973,500. (Page 20)
  9. The operating expense in the first 20 years is about $199 million and 30 years about $372 million. The increase in operating costs is largely because of servicing loan repayments for the proposed new water supply schemes. (Page 21)
  10. Waste Water Waikawa Beach Preferred Option: Investigation and design of proposed new wastewater supply schemes. Year 1-3 $76,840
    Construction for both existing settlements and growth areas. Year 10-16 $9,840,887
    There will be wastewater supply network upgrade requirements at Levin to service growth areas. Year 1-4 $7,075,762. (Page 27)
  11. The quality of freshwater in streams, river systems and water catchments in general are affected by runoff, erosion and wastewater effluent disposal both within the District and from outside it. Stormwater systems and runoff need to be considered within the whole catchment. (Page 32)
  12. The District’s road network has historically had insufficient maintenance and renewal spending. Funding for surface renewals and basic maintenance now needs to increase to reduce the forward pressure on basic levels of service. (Page 37)

Whew! Really, you should read the whole thing.

Purchasing and Maintaining Assets.

Purchasing and Maintaining Assets.

The water situation

To sum up the costs though:

  1. the current infrastructure is old and has been neglected. It needs to be upgraded at quite some cost.
  2. a sufficient supply of water is already problematic and Council plans to investigate new water sources and a storage reservoir. Both are costly and the costs haven't been included in the current financial strategy.
  3. new water and wastewater (and stormwater) infrastructure is planned for Waikawa Beach and other locations. Adding new locations affects current treatment infrastructure which in turn will need to be upgraded, at additional cost.
  4. all those costs will lead the Council to take on more debt, will flow on to rates and the increasing number of older people in the district may find such rates increases problematic.

To be even more brief: the Council face huge costs to maintain what they've already got which can't cope with current water demand. Now they want to go into debt and increase our rates to give us infrastructure whose purpose is not to make our lives better but to attract new people to live here.

To sum up the other points:

  1. The Council needs to consider environmental, social and economic impacts of infrastructure.
  2. They also need to consider sustainability, being efficient and effective, protecting the environment and promoting the creation of liveable communities with a sense of place and identity.
  3. The quality of freshwater in streams, river systems and water catchments in general are affected by runoff, erosion and wastewater effluent disposal.

What we are and what we have

Here at Waikawa Beach we have a very liveable community with a clear sense of place and identity. The water in our river is of very poor quality, often with a level of E. Coli which makes it unsafe to swim in. Our water issues are to do with river water quality and coastal erosion.

Most people already at Waikawa Beach capture rainwater for domestic use, and some use bore water exclusively, or to supplement their water needs.

It could be argued that the type of people who come to Waikawa Beach, who make up its community, are the type of people who are happy to rely on rain and bore water (and for that matter on septic tanks for waste water). Enticing people to live here with reticulated water will draw a different type of people, changing our community and our identity.

It's an essential part of our nature to be a quirky little beach settlement where we live closely with nature. We use the water which drops freely from the sky, and send it back onto the land.

The septic tank gets a tune up.

The septic tank gets a tune up.

Why replace a perfectly good system with a costly and inferior system?

Why would we want to take part in a scheme which captures water from an insufficient source, treats it with harsh chemicals, pipes it across the countryside and delivers it in insufficient quantities to our properties, while ignoring what is in abundance around us?

And why, either set up sewage ponds near us or pipe sewage across the countryside to a treatment plant, when we already deal with sewage effectively and efficiently and in an environmentally friendly way?

Where will those pipes go? Will the Council take farmland, or will it dig up our narrow road to install pipes?

The Council has a history of not sufficiently maintaining its water infrastructure. Why would we think that will change?

Why does the Council want to increase its debt, burdening future generations, to supply something that is not needed?

How is it better to drain one source of water to supply many people than to make use of the many sources (rainfall on roofs) which exist where the people are?

The first flush diverter on the wall of the house takes out detritus between roof and tank.

The first flush diverter on the wall of the house takes out detritus between roof and tank.

My conclusion

The Council has clearly stated it wants to provide infrastructure we haven't asked for in order to attract more people to our settlement and to rezone open space around us to house them.

I believe that this plan would change the character of our settlement and threaten our environment.

I reject the notion that settlements should be enlarged and instead suggest the idea of creating new settlements, thus spreading out the effects of adding more people. That would also allow each settlement to retain or create its own character, giving people more option for the type of place they'd like to live in.

We already enjoy an ample supply of fresh water, sourced locally, and treat our own waste in situ. Creating a system of pipes and plant to deliver an inferior supply and create a waste problem either locally or elsewhere is inappropriate.

The additional costs imposed by such new infrastructure are unwelcome and likely to be a burden for most people, not just the older portion of the population.

How I think we should respond to the Plan

I believe we should reject the plans to rezone land around our settlement, reject the plans for new infrastructure here and suggest the option of creating additional settlements where people will provide their own drinking water and waste treatment options (such as septic tanks).