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Appendix 2: Notes from Consultation Workshops

Location Key:

Whangarei [1]; Auckland [2]; Hamilton [3]; Rotorua [4]; Gisborne [5]; Napier [6]; Palmerston North [7]; Stratford [8]; Wellington [9]; Picton [10]; Christchurch [11]; Invercargill [12]; Dunedin [13], Greymouth [14].

Item Topic Area Comments Location
1 NES implementation Gazetting areas for NES after wide consultation by RC would avoid the hassle of a prolonged planning change process 3;
    RCs and DCs should act jointly to designate areas 9;
    Guidance needed on determining environmentally “sensitive” areas in relation to receiving environment 7; 3;
    Need a set of guidelines on undertaking remedial works 5;
    Needs to be a collaborative process involving councils and communities 5; 10; 3;
    Need an implementation package right up front at the time the NES is promulgated 6;
    Inspection Package deals could be used to lower cost and administration 6;
    Why is MoH not involved if health risk so great? 2; 6; 12; 13
    Analysis desirable on how NES impacts on other government initiatives (e.g. reticulation, subsidy scheme) 6;
    Change NES title to “Maintenance of on-site systems” 6;
    Education of home owners is important – does MfE run an educational campaign prior to NES implementation? 8;
11; 12; 14
    Would increase acceptance if cases of serious health effects from on-site systems are displayed in pamphlet 11; 13
    Make roles and responsibilities between different councils clear to start process – need more guidance 11; 6;
    List of subsidies/ funding options should be included in the implementation pack 11;
    What happens where an inspection process is currently in place? 11;
    Provide central government support for first inspection (as this will be the most costly one) 11;
    On-site systems should be identified on PIM for future home-owners to know about them 11; 6;
    NES should require to inspect at time of property sale to ensure compliance 6;
    One size does not fit all – local solutions are needed 12; 9;
    Pressure on the municipal treatment plant if sludge from inspected on-site systems is discharged 12;
    Better to enforce NES than to apply NZ/AUS Standard (good but not legal requirement) - useful tool for filling gap of maintenance 12; 10; 3
    This new bureaucracy of NES is not necessary 12;
    Long-term benefit of having NES, but a lot of septic tanks are in a state of failing and need upgrading/ replacing, which costs a lot of money, thus need to fix them first, then manage 12;
    A lot of existing regulation can be used, e.g. building consent 12;
    Problems with staff delegation if inspection is not counted like a resource consent under RMA 12;
    More staffing will be required 13;
    Is MFE pushing with the NES for all systems to be secondary systems? Expensive systems are not necessarily better than simple systems 13;
    Resources are needed for identification, consultation and implementation 2; 3;
    Danger of duplicating if councils already do something 7;
    There are consultation requirements under LGA for the process of gazetting sensitive areas 7;14;
    Needs to be stressed that home owners have responsibility and obligation to have system maintained 7;
    How can it be subsidised by ratepayers – is there a mechanism in place under the NES? 7;
    Government needs to give reasonable subsidy to get people’s cooperation, else it costs tree times in litigation, or it is discharged illegally/ covered up 14;
    Grant should not go directly to homeowner, but to council that adopt NES and paid to contractor on completion of job 14;
    Councils don’t want to adopt it if it creates problems 14;
    RC first need to assess the extent of the problem 14;
2 Authority for NES
Mandatory vs voluntary
Can community challenge imposition of NES? 1;
  Can decision of inspector be challenged by homeowner? 6;
    How can we call it National Environmental Standard if it does not apply to whole NZ? 6;
    Voluntary NES not really a solution to ensure that NZers are safe in 5 to 10 years time – disappointing 6;
    If RMA gives tools to councils to deal with issues, why does MfE push NES through? 6;
    If it is a National Standard, but not compulsory, what is its point? Needs to be mandatory, else no teeth 6; 11;
    If not mandatory, regional councils/district councils would not like to put pressure on homeowners 6;
    Would an NPS better filter into rules in plans across the board (and avoid voluntary measure)? 6;
    NES should reference reviewed AUS/NZ Standard on system management 11;
    Councils have to defend targeted areas, which is difficult with a voluntary NES 11;
    Make the NES mandatory due to possible serious health hazards 11;
    RC/TLAs already have possibility to deal with these issues 12;
    Education how to operate systems is better than compliance WOF (taking community along) 12;
    NES only focuses on maintenance, which looses sight of how whole system is working – NES as interim measure ok, but not long-term 13;
    Surprised that NES is only an option 7;
3 NES administration District council administration likely to be better than regional council 1; 3; 4; 6; 8;7;
    Regional Councils are not set up to manage property by property inspections 6;
    Needs clarity of who administers 3;
    District council bylaw more appropriate than NES 1; 3;
    Can RC delegate NES function to DC? 2;
    Variation in how councils deal with on-site systems – an NES could help unify the approach 6;
    The NES is not dealing with “failure” issues or cumulative effects, and thus is more DC responsibility (building consent) than a RC responsibility 7;
    Keep process simple and avoid another layer of bureaucracy 8;
    WasteTRACK is not adequate at the moment to record inspections results. Around half its users are dissatisfied with its current performance record 8;
    WasteTRACK seems an unnecessary level of bureaucracy 5;
    Is not WasteTRACK free in Australia? 5;
    Regional Councils need to record info in conjunction with TLAs 11;
    Info held by TLA and for RC not accessible 12;
    No responsibility by RC to reply to requests by TLAs 12;
    Lack of clarity where interface lays between RMA, Building Act and Local Government Act 13;
    Proposed NES administration not aligned with local government functions – RCs don’t have much of a relationship with local communities 13;7
    Sensitive areas selected by RCs, inspection process supervised by building inspectors 7;
    If TLA’s are responsible for LIMs, land use and resource consent they should rather have the NES under their control, or at least be in the link 13;7;
    Conflict of interest, if TLA issues building permit and then monitor themselves 9; 13;
    Is a deadline for gazetting necessary? 1;
    Administration and infrastructure costs money 14; 3;
4 Relationships between regional and district councils Very good in Far North 1;
  Taranaki MoU between RC and DCs works very well 8;
    Split RC responsibility to industry and farming and let DC deal with urban and rural residential areas 8;
    One approach may be for RC to identify hot spot/sensitive areas, then DC to implement NES 3;
    The discussion document throughout refers to “councils”, but in many cases there is no clarity as to which councils (RC, DC, or both) are being referred to 3;
    If RC does inspection and finds high levels of failures, cannot force sewers on the community. This means discussion with DC 3; 9;
    Consultation between regional councils and district councils is important, but what if councils don’t agree (differing priorities)? 6; 9;
    WOF records should be maintained on District Council LIM records against each property title 4; 9; 12;14
    Building consent process should take a stronger role 9;
    More partnerships of district councils is desirable (understanding/ contracts how to do business) 8;
    There are grey areas at the moment regarding the relationship between RC and DC re on-site servicing matters. Roles and responsibilities need to be clearly defined 11;
    Since 1991 all systems have to be identified as to type and location on the DC property file 8;
    Where should the inspection system database be held? 11;
    TLA’s have responsibilities under the LGA 13;
    Patchwork of council relationships across NZ – need to build in some discretion into who is administering the process 13;
5 “everywhere” versus “targeted areas” Need good criteria for defining problem areas to justify 2; 5; 6; 3;
  How to identify targeted areas? 6;
    Water quality monitoring a key element in developing targeted areas 10;
    Density limits can define areas 4;
    Need a collaborative approach between communities and councils in deciding targeted areas 6;
    WOF would work fine in general for permitted activities, but not in communities with serious problems (e.g. where reticulation is better option) 6;
    Should be everywhere (not just “sensitive” areas) and thus identify specific properties for on-going inspections 6; 7; 9; 11;
    All septic tanks can potentially be harmful – NES should be extended to all systems everywhere 8;
    Inspect everywhere and cover costs via rates 11;
    A staged approach to full coverage via NES could be used 11;
    Failures occur everywhere – especially older systems are not suitable for modern appliances 11;
    Unfair to target certain communities due to environmental conditions – should apply everywhere 11;
    Could apply everywhere, with a more stringent approach at particular hotspots 11;
    A targeted approach makes sense as it concentrates on the significant issues 11;
    Commence with areas having small lot sizes and then move up to larger lot and lifestyle blocks 11;
    Councils could gazette step by step so that at the end the entire region is gazetted 11;
    Random systems cause problems, not necessarily many “hotspots” 12;
    Still a big health risk if failing on-site system is on big farm 1;
    Is optional NES implementation challengeable, e.g. process of defining areas? 2;
    NES could grow from hotspots to encompass wider area, but not worth it to get into the last pit hole 14;
    There could be a wider assessment to select suitable options for different areas 14;
    Sometimes soils vary within short distances, and systems failing can’t be addressed under one blanket target area 14;
    Is an assessment for RCs compulsory to see where a NES may apply? 14;
6 Inspect systems other than single dwelling domestic Marae, schools, campgrounds and commercial activity domestic wastes (cafes; employee facilities in factories and like) should all be covered 1; 2; 5; 8; 9;
  Resource consented systems (as well as septic tank and soakage field permitted activity systems) should be included. (NES should require compliance with consent conditions) 1; 2; 4; 6;
    Do not want to double up on consented systems by having them subject to WOF as well 9;
    Not all systems may fall under permitted activity rules 2;
    If a resource consent costs $900, then could have a further $300 every three years for an inspection 3;
    Should NES apply to holding tanks (as at wineries and other commercial premises)? 5;
    What about other systems? 6;8;
    Thought of determining what systems the NES applies to? 12;
    The NES for consented systems will be complimentary to consent conditions as it focuses on maintenance inspections 6;
    Often consented systems currently don’t get inspection either 11;
    Problems exist more with lifestyle blocks than in urban areas 12;
7 Inspection frequency 3-yearly inspection interval not suitable for all situations (depending on household size); it is very expensive if inspection would have to dig out tank each time to check 1;7;
    Inspection regime should reflect the risk 3;
    Consider all areas with on-site systems “sensitive” and stage inspection frequencies according to risk in a tiered approach (3 yr initially may then extend to 5 or more yrs) 1; 3; 4; 7;
    Mechanical systems need inspections regularly (pumped dose systems; aeration treatment units). There can be higher failure rates with mechanical systems than conventional septic tank and soakage trench systems, hence the need for frequent WOF checks 3;
    Some aerated wastewater treatment systems almost need 6‑monthly inspection 5; 12; 3;
    WOF at three years, but for new systems first inspection at 12 months 4;
    Remote area systems do not need inspections (farmers can empty their own tanks and dispose the septage to land) 8;
    A lot of new systems can “fail” within three years, which suggests that annual inspections to determine scum and sludge build-up rates is necessary 11; 5;
    Different systems require different maintenance 13; 3;
8 Pump-out frequency Pump-out at every 3-yearly inspection (simple logistics) 1; 5; 6; 8; 12
    3-year pump-out has cost and administration benefits when undertaken by District Councils and covered by rates 1;
    Pump-out at first inspection to assess condition of tank (type of tank; capacity/volume; number of chambers; position of partition openings; condition of inlet and outlet fittings; potential for leakage in/out) 1; 8; 5;
    Pump-out to a schedule based on user population (1 person 16 yrs; 2 person 8 yrs; 4 person 4 yrs; 8 person 2 yrs) 1;
    Pump-out at first inspection and thereafter on demand 1; 4; 5;
    Implications if moving from low occupancy to high occupancy 1;8;
    Septage quality shows high copper and zinc levels, and thus need to pump-out frequently to dilute these constituents in wastewater treatment plant biosolids (also to comply with Biosolids Guideline.) Thus three year pump-out -versus pump-out on demand- will prevent spikes in heavy metal concentrations in sludges from municipal treatment plant 1; 5;
    Remote sites (such as in the Marlborough Sounds) are such that it can be impossible to use tanker trucks or barges to undertake pump-out 8; 10;
    At the moment reactive to problems: Just pump-out is not fixing the problem WOF necessary to track, suckers don’t report failing systems, as this is their livelihood 12;
    Pump-out is not necessary with every inspection 14;
9 Inspection timing Winter versus summer inspections may show different indicators of land application performance 1; 2; 6; 7; 8;
    Some weather events may cause temporarily adverse effects 6; 2; 7
    Inspect at peak occupancy 1;
    NES should require inspection at time of property sale (and be applied throughout the country) 4; 6; 9; 10; 11;
    Make inspection at time of shift in ownership – less invasive and very effective, cost at time of changing hands 14;
10 Inspectors Let pump-out contractor be inspector of full system 1; 8
    Pump-out contractor to do initial inspection and alert council staff if follow-up detailed inspection needed (for land application area) 1;
    Would there be training courses also for secondary systems and qualifications for maintenance staff? 1;
    Maintenance contractor could be incorporated in inspection process to avoid doubling up 2;
    Estimated 300 additional inspectors to be trained across NZ 2;
    Building inspectors are familiar with new systems, and could do subsequent WOF inspections 3; 5;
    Building inspectors average age throughout the country is around 58 years – need to recruit and train replacements 3;
    Inspectors should be independent (not be council officers) 3;
    DC are unlikely to want to get involved in WOF inspections. Their inspectors cover building consent requirements, not field performance assessments 4; 14
    Who would be authorising passing of qualification? 6;
    Could not homeowners undertake inspections – a well informed householder could be very useful? 14; 7;
    Sucker pump drivers are not qualified to do inspections – come from a driver background not a drainage background 8;
    There is a skill shortage out there, high turnover in staff 8;
    Building inspectors check system installation but do not have the background for NES inspections (operational failures) 8; 13; 14
    District councils should be leading/ involved in inspections (possible cover via extra rates) 8; 12
    Engineers would be preferred technically, but are often too busy, more experience in design than in the operating system 8;
    Experience is very valuable for an inspector (apprenticeship) 8;
    Council employees would enable a uniform approach rather than a group of independent inspectors applying varying approaches to inspection criteria 10;
    Independent inspectors would be liable for quality of their inspection 10; 3;
    Part-time inspectors under council supervision could be satisfactory 10;
    How are disputes over outcome of the WOF check to be dealt with? 6; 14
    Inspectors need to be audited from time to time to maintain quality of standard 6; 14
    Process needs to be in place to catch the “cowboys” out 11;
    Training of inspectors will be most important as they must be available to commence activities as implementation begins 7; 11;
    Need to ensure that inspectors are independent and not associated with companies undertaking remedial work 11;
    Need to work with existing industry/ accredited contractors to ensure sufficient inspectors are ready at start of NES 11; 6;
    Very expensive for industry to attend qualification courses – MfE should fund training 12;
    Link into drainlayer ITO to develop qualification 13;
    Inspectors are crucial – qualification scheme would be beneficial 7;
    Most cost-effective if councils employ somebody to inspect and suggest what to do in case of failure 14;
11 Inspection procedures Checklist should cover placement of buildings over disposal fields and reserve areas 9;
    Gravity distribution into land application systems provide uneven loading of the system, and should be included on the inspection checklist 7;
    Can inspection procedures define operating problems? 5;
    Two categories of inspection results – gross failures are obvious, so how to determine “hidden” failures (poor performance potentially leading to pollution)? 5;
    Register number of persons in dwelling at inspection 1;
    Up to 17 persons can be in a dwelling 4;
    Housing NZ will undertake inspections and maintenance in certain areas 4;
    Homeowner wants a simple and pragmatic process, not generating another lengthy bureaucracy 8;
    Emptying tank does not solve problem if field system fails 8;
    Determine effluent quality during inspection 11; 12;
    Need to define “failure” in respect of inspection outcomes 11;
    Good checklists will be the key to effective inspections 11;
    Worst case fail scenarios are rare, but takes much more time to discover rest of failing systems – not a simple process 12;
    Is WOF also issued if design and location of system is not appropriate? 13;
    Inspection checklist: contact Waitakere CC 2;
    Routine inspection criteria need to be carefully chosen – should inspections all be done at worst time? 7;
    Inspection should cover the whole system not only tanks 14;
    Could councils alter the national checklist to incorporate local issues? 14;
    MfE may need to set discharge quality levels to make sure RCs don’t apply too different standards 14;
    Groundwater contamination difficult to detect 14;
12 Inspection costs The costs cited in the discussion document appear to be too low 2; 6; 14 3;
    $150 to $350 more likely cost 3; 10;
    Hawkes Bay RC inspection costs are between $80 and $100 6;
    $370 (depending on distance) 1;
    Inspection fees in discussion document likely to be subsidised by councils 7;
    Older tank systems may take a morning to locate on a property 3;
    Work & Income can provide subsidy for households in deprivation areas 1; 4; 7; 12
    Cheapest way to have councils administer the system, and have inspectors and cleaners as one person 8;
    If cost is a barrier: Pump-out at time of inspection to do whole job at once (in Far North DC septic tank cleaners do pre-liminary site inspection and notify monitoring officer when problems) 1;
    NDHB stressed that there are immense health costs that need to be seen when discussing inspection costs 1;
    Best covered via rates 4; 9; 3;
    Need financial support for pensioners where older systems require upgrade 11;
    Councils should assist people who cannot afford remedial works by providing loans to be eventually recovered from the estate 11;
    Can be more economical to go with an NES inspection and pump-out at $500 than to be rated at $1,000/year for the sewer 8;
    WOF not cost-effective 12;
    Inspection/Pump-out should be organised and charged for by councils that have the records 12;
    No charging regime under NES, not sure if RC can collect revenue for that 13; 3;
13 Enforcement How will enforcement of remedial works requirements be ensured? 1; 6; 7; 9;
    Health impact findings to still go through council Environmental Health officers 2;
    With 6,000 on-site systems being inspected, and 1% failing to act on inspection remedial actions, enforcement of the required actions will be costly 3;
    Affordability of remedial works is a real issue in some communities 1; 5; 9; 14;
    Problem of enforcement – cars can be taken off the road, but you cannot ban homeowners from their house 6; 9; 14;
    Leaky home syndrome – who is responsible? People are left with the costs of a faulty system despite operating the system appropriately 6;
    Difficult for councils to block subdivisions, that is why NES would be important 11;
    Would TLA have to pick up enforcement in the end? 12;
    Financial incentives to replace/upgrade would be more useful than NES 12;
    Implications for people who cannot afford replacing the system: They are made criminals under the RMA 12;
    Will get a lot of objections by private owners 12;
    Is enforcement base for action possible to be delegated? 2;
14 Environmental impacts of on-site systems Drip irrigation systems laid on surface enable wash off of pollutants during rainfall 1;
  In development each house is assessed separately and cumulative effects are not taken into account 6;
    Ponded systems do not cause environmental effects 6;
    Families can get sick from failed systems 6;
    Health effects are not the problem, otherwise Ministry of Health would be campaigning for adoption of the NES 6; 11;
    Shallow irrigation systems under rainfall may have public health implications 3;
    Health benefits of improving on-site system performance easier to assess than environmental benefits 1;
    What is MfE doing about environmental impacts of inappropriately designed and located systems (septic tank soakage trenches on gravel plains and foreshores)? 6;
15 Technology challenges Drip irrigation systems are showing a wide variety of problems 2; 8;
    New secondary systems are costly but fail a lot 6; 9; 5;
    Piecemeal approach – pins costs on individual households to fix each system instead of looking at combined solutions 6;
    Suppliers of technologies need to be checked to ensure that the science and engineering of their treatment systems is appropriate 7; 12;
    All disposal systems should have vents on distribution lines to ensure air access into the system 8;
    Effluent outlet filters are highly variable in quality and performance 8;
    Need to ensure inspection points are provided on new systems 10;
    Why not encourage split blackwater/greywater systems as a cheaper option to fix things? 10; 6, 12
    MfE should be encouraging more use of composting toilets 10;
    More innovative solutions to on-site wastewater servicing are required – meanwhile an NES is appropriate 10;
    Freezing is a problem for system performance 11;
    Often system does not work properly for the first 6 weeks – problem for holiday homes 11;
    Are there enough practitioners out there to undertake remedial work? 11;
16 Design and installation of systems Cluster systems for 5 houses or more should be used more 1;
  An NES should set performance standards for effluent quality from on-site treatment units 6; 11;
    Failures are the result of poor drain laying practices – rather than imposing an NES by MfE, BRANZ should be enforcing higher standards of installation 6; 12
    An NES will not solve existing problems of needing to replace older septic tank systems which are failing 6;
    If inspector finds a system not installed as per the design, who is responsible, and what will be done about the situation? 6; 11;
    Need to tie in AS/NZS 1547 maintenance requirements to the NES 11; 6;
    Need design of disposal field that works 6; 12;
    Public education is needed in terms of which system goes where 12;
    National Testing Facility seen as very worthwhile to back up councils to choose the right systems, “consumer” ranking 2; 13; 14;
    Possibly endorsing systems where site conditions are not suitable 7;
    Need to ensure that installation of right systems for locations and that systems are accredited 7;
17 Operation and Maintenance issues Some chemicals provided off shelf for household use can result in performance issues and/or failure of septic tanks. More guidance and/or control is needed to prevent use of substances harmful to septic tank systems 5;
  MfE should be promoting eco-friendly products 5;
    MfE should be dealing with manufacturers of harmful products as these not only affect treatment and land application system performance, but enter the environment 5;
    Need better information to assist people to look after their systems more effectively 10; 12; 13
    Benefit of WOF is that people are aware that they have on-site system 12;
    Re-activating systems is better than replacement – how good are those products 14;
    Attitude often is that people need not pay for long-term maintenance 14;
18 Maintenance contracts (mechanised treatment units) Homeowners need flexibility in selecting contractor (often agreement is signed upon installation, stop telemarketing) 1;
  Could not service contract records provide an alternative to NES inspection records (align existing maintenance contracts with the NES)? 7; 14; 3;
    Service contractors are unlikely to point out problems 7;1;
    Maintenance contracts perform 6-monthly checks 11;
19 Reticulation of problem areas The NES process will raise awareness of issues related to on-site wastewater management, and should identify where existing systems are working (and thus inspection procedures can assist retaining on-site servicing), and where they are not working (and thus quantified assessment can lead to reticulation of an area) 8;
  Is NES likely to be a driver for reticulation? 3;
    NES will help discussion on reticulation versus on-site wastewater servicing 3;
    Need funding support for reticulating problem areas 5; 8;
    An NES needs to provide “teeth” to ensure council consideration of sewer reticulation for problem areas 6;
    Need guidelines on assessment (setting “trigger points”) of need to move from on-site to sewered servicing 6; 8; 11;
    Need to ensure that where inspection indicates area wide problems a review of on-site versus reticulated sewerage is undertaken 6;
    If on-site system has recently been replaced, people will be very resistant to reticulation, even if necessary 14;
20 Consultation process What further consultation will be undertaken after submissions come in? 1;
    Have iwi been approached for input or the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs? 2;
    Is there a marketing of proposal/ TV ad to get feedback from homeowners – otherwise won’t get a balanced response 7;
    Criticism of consultation with tāngata whenua: Discussion document says with iwi authorities, but should be hapū and apply to all Māori. Meetings not advertised appropriately 13;

 

Abbreviations:

CC = City Council

DC = District Council

ITO = Industry Training Organisation

LIM = Land Information Memoranda

MfE = Ministry for the Environment

MoU = Memorandum of Understanding

NES = National Environmental Standard

NPS = National Policy Statement

RC = Regional Council

TLA = Territorial Local Authorities