A bylaw targeting regular inspection of septic tanks and wastewater systems was confirmed by Porirua City Council last week, despite a plea from its opponents, who claim the bylaw is poorly constructed and is not supported by the community.
The On-Site Wastewater (Septic Tanks) component of Bylaw Part 25 was passed by council in June last year, and introduced council assessment of septic tanks. A previous bylaw from 1993 placed the responsibility on the owner to ensure tanks and systems were regularly checked.
But a 2006 survey found up to 40 per cent of tanks were in a poor state and posed a health or environmental risk. Porirua has 525 on-site wastewater systems.
As well as meeting the new standards, septic tank owners will face a fee of $90 when their systems are assessed (usually three to nine years).
But a group of Pauatahanui residents said the bylaw was passed with little consultation and failed to acknowledge most septic tank owners organise their own inspections.
‘‘The first we heard of it was when it was being discussed at council and we have been playing catch-up ever since,’’ Alan Gray, secretary of Pauatahanui Residents Association, told councillors last week.
‘‘We’re not luddites. We do recognise that septic tanks failures are going to occur, but individual owners should deal with contractors themselves.’’
The group said the $90 fee would be ignored by some owners and the cost to administer the fee and carry out inspections was a ‘‘misguided use of resources . . . when there are far more significant issues languishing on the back-burner’’.
Councillors had the opportunity to revoke the bylaw, but only two – Tim Sheppard and Litea Ah Hoi – supported the residents.
Strategy, Finance and Regulatory committee chairman Euon Murrell said he had considered the arguments but the bylaw was about protecting the environment and council needed a measure of control.
‘‘Of course there are owners that look after their systems but there are some who do not,’’ he said.
‘‘These systems have to be maintained to ensure the public health and the ecological protection of our harbour.’’
Ms Ah Hoi stressed more consultation was required with Pauatahanui residents and described Mr Murrell’s insistence that there be no ‘‘relitigation’’ of the bylaw or further discussion as ‘‘undemocratic’’.
‘‘Why are you shutting this debate down? I think it’s appalling.’’
After the meeting, Mr Gray told Kapi-Mana News the residents were disappointed with the outcome and would decide at a meeting this week whether further action would be taken.