Unplanned discharges: Greater Wellington’s role explained

A number of unplanned sewage discharges have happened across the Wellington Region recently, which has caused widespread concern among communities, as well as confusion about who’s responsible for the region’s stormwater networks.

Greater Wellington Regional Council Environment Committee Chair Penny Gaylor says it is important for the public to be aware of each organisation’s role in dealing with sewage discharges that come through stormwater systems as a result of overflows to stormwater, cross connections (wastewater pipes being inappropriately connected into the stormwater network) or bust pipes.

“Greater Wellington is the regulatory authority on the stormwater systems throughout the region – which means it is our responsibility to regulate the quality of the water that comes out at the end of the pipes across the network.

“City and district councils hold the consents for the stormwater network, Wellington Water operates the networks on behalf of city and district councils, and then it is our job to ensure the quality of the water that comes out at the end is in compliance with the consents given,” Cr Gaylor says.

Under those consents Wellington Water has a responsibility along with city and district councils to manage acute effects of discharges on human health – this includes putting signs and information out when water is not safe to swim in and also investigating and subsequently actioning any contamination issues with such effects.

“In terms of the ecological effects of sewage discharges, monitoring is carried out by Greater Wellington and Wellington Water under the Resource Management Act,” Cr Gaylor says.