Call to action over drainage issues

NEEDS FIXING: Gisborne contractor Mike Hall points out a cracked gully trap in a Gisborne District Council informational video. Picture supplied

In a move to help solve Gisborne’s problems with wastewater overflow, a new enforcement strategy will be introduced to ensure homeowners understand why and how they can help solve the problem.

Gisborne District Council has adopted a strategy and overriding principles for its Infrastructure Improvements on Private Property Strategy (IIOPPS), which could require homeowners to pay for repairs to illegal drainage.

The aim of the strategy is to help reduce the number of wastewater discharges that happen during heavy rain.

The main cause is illegal stormwater connections — where downpipes are connected to gully traps — and broken gully traps and sewerage pipes on private properties.

Council lifelines director David Wilson said decisions around enforcement and funding were still subject to a new Long Term Plan being adopted.

At that stage the community would be consulted on the strategy.

“We are setting up a strategy that will work towards some of the ‘pointier’ parts of it. Why we need the strategy is so we have something to consult on with our community.

“We are not jumping from nothing now to bringing in enforcement action, or those kinds of things, and making people pay for things.

“We want to work with homeowners to get to where they can do fixes with us. As we get further down the intervention priority list, that’s when we’ll start getting to places where we need to look at how to fund those fixes.”

Mr Wilson pointed out the council was already working to ensure issues with council-owned drains were dealt with.

The council’s “big push” was to provide more public drains on private property with a $540,000-a-year project over the life of the existing 10-year plan to build council-owned drains located on private property.

“We are starting with the most obvious locations. As we pick off that low-hanging fruit we will start to get to the harder ones to deal with.”

That would involve assessing who had responsibility for fixing issues on private properties, he said.

“There’s a multi-pronged approach at the moment. A lot of it is about education to get the community to understand what the problem is and to help inform us where those problems are.”

The council wants to work with home-owners

Homeowners and renters should not be afraid to come forward and inform the council about an issue, he said.

“Some fixes are really easy; others we are finding out about over time.

“Every time we have a rain event we learn from that, but we really want people to tell us where things are so we can send a team out and have a look.

“The council is very much focused on trying to get to a solution. It’s not about us trying to make anybody fix things at this stage.”

He pointed out that staff had heard “absolute horror stories” of landlords telling people if they wanted a rental they would just have to put up with drainages issue like non-flushing toilets and constant flooding.

“People shouldn’t have to put up with water backing up over their steps, or those kind of things, but we need to know about it. We can’t fix it if we don’t know about it.

“When we speak to a property owner and it’s a cracked gully trap that’s letting in water, our staff will fix that straight away.”

Other property owners would want to be part of the solution if the council enabled them to do so by informing them of a solution, he said.

“The next bit, which is what the IIOPPS strategy is about, is how do we enforce if people are unable to do things, or how do we enable them to do things if they can’t afford to do it?”

The council was focused on educating and enabling the community to help be part of the solution before things progressed to the need for enforcement actions like immediate abatement notices.

Over the whole network, there was about $13 million of work outstanding to fix identified issues on private properties.

The Long Term Plan has put aside half of that to be paid for through rates through the public drains on private property programme.

“The gap we have is how to fund that extra to get us to that $13m,” said Mr Wilson.

“That could be through either compelling people to pay, through education and awareness, or enabling them to pay.”

A Special Needs Fund will be set up to provide grants to those unable to pay Any money dispensed through this fund will not have to be paid back. A Financial Assistance Fund will be set up to lend funds to property owners, (reimbursed to the council) through individual rates.

“What we need to do is have an equitable and manageable split for each year for each of those because whether it’s being paid back or not, we are still taking the debt hit straight away.”

Long Term Plan considerations would show what the council would be able to afford sustainably.

“This is something every council in the country is grappling with,” said Mr Wilson.

“We have some requirements in our Freshwater Plan we need to meet. Anecdotally, we think there has been a change already with the interventions we have done. Wastewater discharges into the river are happening far less often than they used to.”

Many of those improvements have come from the council’s DrainWise programme, which was first envisioned in 2015.

“Before that, we were doing property inspections, along with the renewals for council’s infrastructure,” DrainWise programme manager Wolfgang Kanz said.

“The DrainWise programme comprises education and awareness, compliance and enforcement, renewals and upgrades of public infrastructure and property inspections.

“One of the key pieces of work has been constructing the public pipes on private property project. This is where we as a council decide where there are broader catchment issues, we agree to extend our public network to help homeowners deal with their private property drainage (if there is a wider community benefit).”

This year, four focus areas in Kaiti have been part of that.

“That is just part of the solution. What might have made a bigger impact is our work on the downpipes going into gully traps.

“This year we’ve managed to remove about 25 of those. Imagine a whole roof of water going into one gully trap; that’s a huge amount of water. You only need to have four downpipes connected to one pipe and no more wastewater can get in.”

GDC infrastructure water adviser Hinemihiata Lardelli said the council had rolled out an online and social media education programme to present five key messages.

“Each of those key messages have a call to action and we’ve had a really great response from the community.

“We all need to work together to help solve this problem.”

In a move to help solve Gisborne’s problems with wastewater overflow, a new enforcement strategy will be introduced to ensure homeowners understand why and how they can help solve the problem.

Gisborne District Council has adopted a strategy and overriding principles for its Infrastructure Improvements on Private Property Strategy (IIOPPS), which could require homeowners to pay for repairs to illegal drainage.

The aim of the strategy is to help reduce the number of wastewater discharges that happen during heavy rain.

The main cause is illegal stormwater connections — where downpipes are connected to gully traps — and broken gully traps and sewerage pipes on private properties.

Council lifelines director David Wilson said decisions around enforcement and funding were still subject to a new Long Term Plan being adopted.

At that stage the community would be consulted on the strategy.

“We are setting up a strategy that will work towards some of the ‘pointier’ parts of it. Why we need the strategy is so we have something to consult on with our community.

“We are not jumping from nothing now to bringing in enforcement action, or those kinds of things, and making people pay for things.

“We want to work with homeowners to get to where they can do fixes with us. As we get further down the intervention priority list, that’s when we’ll start getting to places where we need to look at how to fund those fixes.”

Mr Wilson pointed out the council was already working to ensure issues with council-owned drains were dealt with.

The council’s “big push” was to provide more public drains on private property with a $540,000-a-year project over the life of the existing 10-year plan to build council-owned drains located on private property.

“We are starting with the most obvious locations. As we pick off that low-hanging fruit we will start to get to the harder ones to deal with.”

That would involve assessing who had responsibility for fixing issues on private properties, he said.

“There’s a multi-pronged approach at the moment. A lot of it is about education to get the community to understand what the problem is and to help inform us where those problems are.”

The council wants to work with home-owners

Homeowners and renters should not be afraid to come forward and inform the council about an issue, he said.

“Some fixes are really easy; others we are finding out about over time.

“Every time we have a rain event we learn from that, but we really want people to tell us where things are so we can send a team out and have a look.

“The council is very much focused on trying to get to a solution. It’s not about us trying to make anybody fix things at this stage.”

He pointed out that staff had heard “absolute horror stories” of landlords telling people if they wanted a rental they would just have to put up with drainages issue like non-flushing toilets and constant flooding.

“People shouldn’t have to put up with water backing up over their steps, or those kind of things, but we need to know about it. We can’t fix it if we don’t know about it.

“When we speak to a property owner and it’s a cracked gully trap that’s letting in water, our staff will fix that straight away.”

Other property owners would want to be part of the solution if the council enabled them to do so by informing them of a solution, he said.

“The next bit, which is what the IIOPPS strategy is about, is how do we enforce if people are unable to do things, or how do we enable them to do things if they can’t afford to do it?”

The council was focused on educating and enabling the community to help be part of the solution before things progressed to the need for enforcement actions like immediate abatement notices.

Over the whole network, there was about $13 million of work outstanding to fix identified issues on private properties.

The Long Term Plan has put aside half of that to be paid for through rates through the public drains on private property programme.

“The gap we have is how to fund that extra to get us to that $13m,” said Mr Wilson.

“That could be through either compelling people to pay, through education and awareness, or enabling them to pay.”

A Special Needs Fund will be set up to provide grants to those unable to pay Any money dispensed through this fund will not have to be paid back. A Financial Assistance Fund will be set up to lend funds to property owners, (reimbursed to the council) through individual rates.

“What we need to do is have an equitable and manageable split for each year for each of those because whether it’s being paid back or not, we are still taking the debt hit straight away.”

Long Term Plan considerations would show what the council would be able to afford sustainably.

“This is something every council in the country is grappling with,” said Mr Wilson.

“We have some requirements in our Freshwater Plan we need to meet. Anecdotally, we think there has been a change already with the interventions we have done. Wastewater discharges into the river are happening far less often than they used to.”

Many of those improvements have come from the council’s DrainWise programme, which was first envisioned in 2015.

“Before that, we were doing property inspections, along with the renewals for council’s infrastructure,” DrainWise programme manager Wolfgang Kanz said.

“The DrainWise programme comprises education and awareness, compliance and enforcement, renewals and upgrades of public infrastructure and property inspections.

“One of the key pieces of work has been constructing the public pipes on private property project. This is where we as a council decide where there are broader catchment issues, we agree to extend our public network to help homeowners deal with their private property drainage (if there is a wider community benefit).”

This year, four focus areas in Kaiti have been part of that.

“That is just part of the solution. What might have made a bigger impact is our work on the downpipes going into gully traps.

“This year we’ve managed to remove about 25 of those. Imagine a whole roof of water going into one gully trap; that’s a huge amount of water. You only need to have four downpipes connected to one pipe and no more wastewater can get in.”

GDC infrastructure water adviser Hinemihiata Lardelli said the council had rolled out an online and social media education programme to present five key messages.

“Each of those key messages have a call to action and we’ve had a really great response from the community.

“We all need to work together to help solve this problem.”

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