20 Sep 2011

Councils should face same charges as farmers - Hoggard

7:06 am on 20 September 2011

A Manawatu farming leader has called for councils to be treated the same as farmers if they breach their resource consents.

Manawatu-Rangitikei Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard was commenting on revelations that Palmerston North City Council's sewage treatment plant has failed to comply with conditions for discharging wastewater into the Manawatu River since it opened in 2003.

The council has so far escaped prosecution by the regional council, which issued the consents.

Mr Hoggard has welcomed the recognition that farming is not the only source of pollution in the Manawatu River.

And after years of being blamed for the state of the river, he says farmers would like to see councils put under the same scrutiny that they are.

"Certainly if a farmer had received 12 non-compliance breaches like the city council has, they would have been in court by now."

Mr Hoggard says if the community as a whole must play its part in improving water quality

"If we want the most pristine waterway in the world, then we're all going to have to pay a very, very heavy price for it. So the question then becomes - does it have to be the most pristine, or can it just be better."

The Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council has said it will not fine Palmerston North City Council for breaching resource consents because it does not want to penalise ratepayers.

Regional council chairman Bruce Gordon says the city council's ratepayers are the same as the regional council's, so there is no benefit to a fine, though the city council will pay costs incurred.

Greens want council prosecuted

Meanwhile, the Green Party is also calling on the Manawatu-Whanganui regional council to take action against the Palmerston North City Council for polluting the river.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman says agricultural pollution has the largest impact on the river, but that does not excuse the city council from meeting its obligations.

He says the council has a non-compliance rate of 54% on its consent to discharge treated wastewater into the Manawatu River, and fining the city council would provide an incentive for it to clean up its act.