Opinion: Proactive due diligence vital to water quality and supply

Environmental Scientist Alan Woodger from BCD Group in the Central region explains the importance of due diligence in the quest for good quality water supply, as applied by the Freshwater Policy Statement (FWPS).

The Freshwater Policy Statement (FWPS), released in 2020 has put greater focus on Regional Council to consider the quality of water within their jurisdictions. The FWPS requires Regional Councils to set targets to ensure that the health and well-being of degraded water bodies and freshwater ecosystems is improved, and the health and wellbeing of all other water bodies is maintained. This was driven from the realisation that a significant number of our water bodies were falling below a standard where they are considered safe to swim in.

To the general public this is a new concept within New Zealand, where the health of our waterways has not been questioned as a collective. However, the increasing size of the New Zealand population is putting pressure on our waterways with more traditional treatment methodologies no longer sufficient.

The implementation of the FWPS in turn has meant that Regional Councils have an increased focus for monitoring and improving water quality within their regions. Following the introduction of the RMA in 1991 there has always been a requirement within Regional Council rules to control water quality, most reference the ANZECC 2001 guidelines which have not been subject to stringent compliance. Consenting has mainly focused on the engineering aspects of stormwater management such as volumes, rates, suspended solids. These are easily quantified through engineering calculations and standard off the shelf devices and basic visual monitoring. With new policy, our clients are meeting challenges on the presence of dissolved contaminants within stormwater. Detection of these, requires stormwater sampling to be undertaken which isn’t often required as a condition of consent. These dissolved contaminants can originate from a variety of sources, commonly from road and parking runoff and areas not traditionally considered being of “high risk” to stormwater quality.

It has been pleasing to see recently that more focus has been placed on stormwater quality considerations during the consenting of new “high risk” sites which allows for the implementation of stormwater protection devices to be seamlessly designed into an onsite stormwater network avoiding an expensive retrofitting when compliance issues are identified.

Proactive due diligence, paired with clear environmental management planning from the onset, will see an increased importance with the repeal of the RMA and implementation of the Natural and Built Environment Bill. It is hoped that the new legislation will allow for clearer direction in the consenting and compliance process.

Alan Woodger

Senior Environmental Scientist | Kaipūtaiao Ao Tūroa – BCD Group Limited

Alan is an Environmental Scientist with 15 years’ experience working in environmental consulting. His background has covered projects spanning Australasia from the petrochemical industry to national infrastructure projects and small lot subdivisions. At BCD Group Alan is a key member of the environmental team for our national land development projects and has been working with clients to ensure environmental compliance including contaminated land, wastewater, trade waste and stormwater discharges.

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