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Christchurch City Council Media Release 6 May 2002

Christchurch City Council likely to appeal Estuary outfall decision.

The Christchurch City Council is likely to challenge today’s decision by independent commissioners on its plan to discharge treated wastewater into the Avon/Heathcote Estuary, says Denis O’Rourke, chairman of the Council’s Sustainable Transport and Utilities Committee.

“This is a very complicated issue and I think the decision reflects that complexity,” Cr O’Rourke says. “We were confident that our plan was the right course to take. It was affordable and would have delivered the cleanest, most environmentally friendly solution, set up in a way that would allow us to keep improving it.”

“This decision basically says that the Estuary’s not an option,” he says. “The Council will have to decide if it wants to challenge that or look at other options for the discharge. Clearly, the decision is deeply flawed, especially regarding the requirement for UV disinfection as well as an ocean outfall.”

“A five year consent effectively prohibits investment in additional treatment techniques, therefore we’ll have little option but to appeal this decision.”

Cr O’Rourke is worried that plans for improving the quality of treated wastewater would have to be scaled back. “It’s unlikely that it will be viable for the Council to provide for both optimised treatment standards and the ocean outfall.”

“The thing that’s been overlooked in the debate is that the Estuary plan would have committed this Council to a vigorous and long-term programme of continuous improvement and effort,” he says. “It’s also been forgotten that an ocean pipeline is not a green solution. When it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind and there’s no incentive at all to improve what’s coming out the end of it.”

“If you look at the spending plans we had put up, you’ll see a lot of the money that was set aside over the coming years was to allow us to keep improving the system and do things like the Green Edge work,” says Cr O’Rourke. “I’d say there’s a real question mark now over those parts of the project. Without taking inflation into account, this decision would cost the ratepayers an additional $42 million without optimising the quality of the discharge.”

The City Water and Waste Manager, Mike Stockwell, says “It is important that there is not a knee-jerk reaction to the ECAN decision. All aspects need careful consideration before the Council decides on its approach. Nothing is decided yet. The Council will need to consider its options, including another round of public consultation, before making any decisions”.

Council officers now need to study the decision in detail, and will report to the Sustainable Transport and Utilities Committee on 15 May, after which further comment will be available.

For more information: Hhone Denis O’Rourke on 021-632-670 (Cr O’Rourke is in Freemantle on Council business but calls will reach him), or Senior Projects Engineer Walter Lewthwaite on 941 8367.

Note: Following today’s decision, Council staff will file an appeal to the Environment Court. That is because there is a time limit on filing appeals and it might take longer than that for the full Council to make its final decision.

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