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Landmark stormwater consents decision will protect environment and improve water quality

Published: 30 October 2019

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Resource consent to improve water quality

The Environment Court has granted Auckland Council a resource consent to improve the way it manages all stormwater discharges across the region to help protect the environment, people and property while improving water quality.

The consent, a landmark for local authorities in New Zealand, replaces 116 different consents.

“Tackling Auckland’s water quality challenge has been exacerbated by a fragmented approach and a patchwork of consents and authorisations. Many of them are out of date and out of step with current requirements, growth and development pressures to open up land for housing,” says Mayor Phil Goff.

“This new consent will replace the confusing and complex current consenting arrangement and will allow the council to deliver savings, efficiency, consistency and improved environmental performance while supporting growth.”

The scope of the consent, which was widely consulted on across mana whenua, community and environmental groups, developers, government and council partners, covers all discharges from the public stormwater network including for developments in future greenfield areas.

The consent went through a publicly notified hearings process and granted in April 2019 but was appealed by Housing New Zealand, Forest and Bird and the Herne Bay and St Mary’s Bay Resident’s Associations. Through mediation with the appellants and over a dozen interested parties, Auckland Council agreed to amend several conditions. As a result of the mediation, the parties helped clarify and improve how the consent will operate in a practical sense. The Environment Court issued the consent order today.

“We need to embed sustainable, best management practices in subdivision and stormwater design for both new development and redevelopment,” says Craig Mcilroy, General Manager Healthy Waters. The council department manages Auckland’s public stormwater network from maintenance to capital investment of around $1.5 billion in stormwater network infrastructure upgrades over the next 10 years.

“The stormwater network discharge consent is a key tool in the management and integration of the region’s natural water assets to mitigate impacts from climate change and flooding and allow the multiple community and environmental outcomes to be realised,” Mr Mcilroy said. 

“It promotes greater use of water sensitive design in greenfield and major brownfield development to enable essential growth while protecting and enhancing Auckland’s highly valued aquatic environments – both freshwater and marine.”

He said the development community was expected to build and vest back to council $850 million of new stormwater infrastructure over the next 10 years, so it was important there were open discussions and they were on board with what council needs to deliver.

“Improving the quality of our waterways is not a one-time fix but needs collaboration and consultative relationships, focused effort and unwavering commitment from multiple organisations and Auckland communities. Resilient, enduring and integrated stormwater solutions are required to take us into the future to establish a truly resilient water sensitive community,” Mr Mcilroy said.

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