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Council tackles sediment contamination

Published: 5 December 2018

Auckland is growing quickly. Our population is expected to reach in the region of two million by 2028, and 313,000 more dwellings will be needed in the next 30 years.  

With growth moving at this pace, development is intensifying, which in turn is having an impact on our environment. One such impact is sediment, a very visible contaminant that affects our precious ecosystems and communities.

Sediment enters waterways in different ways and comes from a variety of sources and it is often difficult to distinguish one source from another.

Auckland Council is taking leadership towards a strategic approach to sediment problems across the Auckland region.

Earlier this year, the Environment and Community Committee requested a report on options for an integrated, regional approach to reduce sedimentation in Auckland. This week, that report was presented and endorsed by councillors.

“We don’t want to approach sediment in an ad-hoc manner, we want to learn from local examples and experiences to inform our regional approach to deliver positive environmental outcomes for all of Auckland," says Councillor Penny Hulse, Chair of Environment and Community Committee

“We know it’s a complex issue with many players and factors but by having a strategic approach that is consistent across the region, everyone will be on the same page.

“It’s crucial we bring everyone along this journey with us; one of the important parts of this plan is looking at how we can bring on board key players become part of the solution and lead the way in changing how we do things.

“This approach shows that we are stepping up and not shying away from the challenge. This issue needs strategic leadership, coordination and commitment."

A recent quick-win in this area is improving sediment compliance on the 15–20,000 small sites across the region. Building on the momentum of existing education and compliance programmes, building inspectors will all receive enhanced training on erosion and sediment control in the coming months and will notify any issues to the compliance team at each site inspection. This will be supported by a quick and simple process of assessment and reporting.  

Six key work areas of the strategic approach:

Better information – We need to identify the gaps in our knowledge and understanding and how we address those through data, research and intelligence. This will also involve recognising what great work is already being done, and coordinating information across the council and externally.

Strategy and policy – Look at where we can improve the management of sediment in regional strategies, plans and policies across the council group and with industry partners and where and how the council can influence central government direction on the issue.

Interventions – Examine what interventions are currently working and investigate how key learnings can support improved compliance.

Monitoring and evaluation - Define what we need to monitor and how that can be used to evaluate how well policies and interventions are working.

Coordinating and building capacity – Find out what skills and resources the council group needs to make informed decisions to implement the strategic approach.

Communications and engagement - Establish how we engage the council group, mana whenua, industry partners and other stakeholders in helping to make the strategy a success.

The expected outcomes and benefits from the work programme are:

  • drive a reversal of the environmental decline caused by sediment
  • recommend measures to address the prevention of sediment run-off
  • provide a definition of what needs to be monitored and how this can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of policies and interventions
  • recommend optimal coordination of all council resources in minimising the impacts of erosion and sediment
  • encourage those who contribute to sediment problems to become part of the solutions.

As next steps, staff will now continue with the strategic work programme and will return to the committee by June 2019 with implementation options.

Read the full report here