Waitangi report condemns pollution of Waters sacred to Maori
Veronica Harrod, Horowhenua Correspondent
Plans by Horowhenua District Council to increase urban density in Levin in response to population growth follows a damning Waitangi Tribunal report revealing an historic and enduring disregard for pollution effects on Lake Horowhenua from urban growth.
In the same week the the 750 page Waitangi Tribunal document titled ‘Horowhenua, The Muaūpoko Priority Report’ was released, the Horowhenua Council’s strategy committee met to discuss making changes to the District Plan to allow greater housing density.
Resident and local environmentalist Christina Paton said this would only lead to increased pressure on an already struggling infrastructure.
Lake Horowhenua is recognised by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) as being one of the worst polluted lakes and also one of the lakes with the worst eutrophication in all of New Zealand.
Evidence presented to the Waitangi Tribunal by Dr Jonathan Procter states, “whether the sewage plant can cope with population growth is not certain.”
Three events cited in the report that have negatively impacted on Lake Horowhenua since 1991 due to the insufficiency of the infrastructure servicing Levin, “included sedimentation issues and sewage overflows from the Levin Waste Water Treatment Plant in 1991, 1998, and 2008.”
The report went on to state that claimants, “particularly Mr [Phil] Taueki, also referred to the number of drains discharging storm water into the lake. Mr [Charles] Rudd identified 13 drains (not including farm drains).”
‘Large volumes of stormwater’
Dr Procter: “A big part of the issue is that there is an ongoing problem with large volumes of stormwater from streets and houses getting into the pipes for the sewage system during storm events, which results in very high volumes of diluted sewage that the plant struggles to cope with.
Repairing the stormwater and sewage pipes and strictly enforcing rules to prevent people allowing stormwater to drain into sewage pipes is important” [Horowhenua, The Muaūpoko Priority Report].
Waitangi report details
The Waitangi Tribunal report states, “In terms of post-1990, we know that stormwater drains are a discharge point for pollutants going into the lake, aggravating its current hypertrophic state. Furthermore, contaminants are still leaching or discharging into the lake through ground water.”
A 1973 agreement between Horowhenua District Council’s predecessor, the Levin Borough Council, and Lake Horowhenua Trust allowed for the construction and use of a drain which runs from Queen street through land owned by MuaUpoko into Lake Horowhenua (referred to as the Queen Street drain) on the proviso that no trade waste were discharged through the drain.
But a council resolution executing the 1973 agreement was only passed in 2013 because HDC was able to locate a copy of the agreement with the signatures of the Lake trustees but not of the Levin Borough Council (LBC).
In a court case initiated by sixteen Lake Horowhenua owners challenging the vaidity of council’s 2013 resolution, Judge J Clarke confirmed the trustees only made the agreement on the proviso that no trade wastes were allowed to enter Lake Horowhenua.
“A letter of 20 May 1971 from the Town Clerk to the solicitors for the LBC records that on 10 May 1971 the council reached agreement with the Trustees permitting the council to lay the proposed drain provided it did not allow trade waste to be transmitted into the lake through the drain.”
Judge Clark also stated that, “Breach of the agreement would be a matter on which a party to the agreement might sue; [but was] not a basis for granting the declarations as to the agreement’s invalidity…”
Huge costs sought from Mr Taueki
Whether Lake Horowhenua owners intend to sue the council for breaches of the 1973 agreement is unknown at this stage.
But in February this year HDC decided to make an example of Mr Phil Taueki – one of the sixteen beneficiary owners who challenged the legality of the council’s 2013 resolution – by applying to the court seeking $25,422 in costs solely from him.
As the recent photograph of a drain discharging untreated waste directly into a nearby waterway from a new Levin sub-division at Barry Curtis Place demonstrates, there appears to be little political will to stop pollution entering Lake Horowhenua despite the existence of the Lake Horowhenua Accord signed in 2013 to rehabilitate and protect the health of the lake.
The Accord comprises Lake Horowhenua Trust, Horizons Regional Council, Horowhenua District Council, Horowhenua Lake Domain Board and the Department of Conservation.
“In June 2015 a majority of the Accord partners resolved to grant to Horizons Regional Council the permissions it sought to build a fish pass and a sediment trap and to undertake weed harvesting activities. Four lake trustees opposed these permissions
being granted” [Horowhenua, The Muaūpoko Priority Report].
A High Court appeal by Hokio Trust to prevent the harvester trial was unsuccessful. One expert testimony stated that weed harvesting could disturb sendiment increasing the risk of the lake becoming permanently toxic.
Historically the Waitangi Tribunal report clearly proves Lake Horowhenua owners and MuaUpoko only ever made agreements with the Crown and successive council’s on the proviso that no pollution enter Lake Horowhenua.
The other constant the Waitangi Tribunal report makes clear is that both the Crown and local government have historically reneged on the agreement’s as the polluted state of Lake Horowhenua is a testament to.
An historic truth that is unlikely to change if HDC intends on allowing increased urban density without addressing infrastructure shortcoming that continue to be the cause of pollution entering the treasured taonga: Lake Horowhenua.
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Waitangi Tribunal claimant Moana Kupa, “lamented that the state of the lake and the Hokio Stream meant what she learnt as a young person in terms of the tikanga involved with the lake, namely those associated with food gathering, harvesting flax, burying the dead in
their urupa, and respecting the mauri and wairua of the lake, could not be passed
on to her grandchildren.
She said ‘We used to get so much kai from those places,
but now even if you could get any you wouldn’t touch it because of the pollution.”
– Horowhenua, The Muaūpoko Priority Report – The Waitangi Tribunal