Consents, constraints and cost-benefit
We hear a lot about “consents”; they variously obstruct (eg Endeavour sculptures) or drive (eg wastewater treatment) projects. The Government is considering the need for a major review of the Resource Management Act 1991. The process of obtaining consents has become both too cumbersome and too onerous, and is an impediment to progress. By codifying every last detail in the application for a consent, the outcome is set in concrete and leaves no opportunity for review.
In the case of the wastewater treatment project, GDC (as a unitary authority) is both the applicant (as a district council) and the moderator (as a regional council). The current consent requires improvements to be operative by the end of this year, and we now know that not only will this not happen but also it would cost us dearly to implement eventually. Presumably it will cost even more in administration to obtain an extension to the date.
Thus, I think it is timely to step back and consider whether this is the right solution anyway.
First, it will not prevent tutae being released into the Bay. They do not get through the current system now, so an extra stage will make no difference in that respect; the focus there must be via the DrainWise project to eliminate the need to discharge raw sewage into the rivers.
Second, the “improvement” may disinfect the waste stream, but how long do the bacteria survive in sea water anyway? Are there any test results? Is this a cosmetic solution to an irrational objection? Is it OK to discharge water contaminated with methamphetamine? Did the “Assessment of Environmental Effects” correctly identify a real issue?
It seems to me that the current consent has become a rod for our own back; this route will cost ratepayers plenty for little advantage.
Do we have to do it? Who's saying?