Catherine Delahunty

The “Black Drain” Bill

by Catherine Delahunty

A couple of weeks ago I had another Bill drawn from the Members ballot, my total is 4 so far.

This Bill titled the Resource Management(Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits Amendment Bill  is about the long term desecration of a river.

The Bill would change one clause in the Resource Management Act (Section 107 (2)(a) which allows contaminating discharges with toxic effects and discolouration of waters under “exceptional circumstances” . This phrase has no time limit and has been occasionally used to justify the far from exceptional but very convenient long term pollution of some waterways and coastal areas.

Most of the time this clause is used when there is a genuine and short term problem with a sewage works or discharge and Councils need up to 5 years to sort it out. My Bill would give a tiemframe of 5 years for the use of this clause.

Of course even 5 years is not great for the receiving environment but if you have been involved in wastewater or other consent processes its possible to accept that a negotiated solution can take several years. However the Bill is called “The Black Drain Bill” because the Tarawera River which has been used as a drain by the pulp mills at Kawerau since 1955, has a 25 year consent based on Section 107 and supposed “exceptional circumstances” .

The river has been subjected to thousands of tonnes of pulp mill waste being dumped into it since 1955 and all kinds of legal excuses used to justify this ongoing pollution. One of the reason I wanted to be an MP was to stand up for this river and the many people over many years who have fought for its clean up. Through the efforts of people from three iwi connected to the river, Greenpeace and local residents the pulp mill waste is less toxic than it was until the 1990s. But the chlorine bleached pulp waste and the resin acids from the pine trees make the waste a permanent concern.

The upper Tarawera is a sparkling river but after it passes through Kawerau it is a dark dank water body and a source of shame to people who know its history. My Bill is likely to have its first reading at the end of this month. If supported by enough votes it wouldn’t stop the current legal pollution of Tarawera but in the consent conditions there are review clauses.

I want to give the river the best chance and warn the pulp mills they better start finding a new way to manage their waste and make it impossible for anyone else to misuse the law to justify pollution.

Published in Environment & Resource Management by Catherine Delahunty on Sun, August 19th, 2012   

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