Federated Farmers takes water quality seriously, but wishes local authorities would too and stop using their stormwater systems to discharge raw sewage.

Over the first weekend in December the IronMaori race was affected due to poor water quality in Pandora Pond, with the swim leg being cancelled.

Napier mayor Bill Dalton was quoted saying the estuary in which the pond is formed has long had its problems, particularly after rain, but multi-agency plans are being made to restore it as a habitat and make it suitable for recreation.

One of the steps was on the council-owned Lagoon Farm, removing the farming close to the estuary shores.

A sign at Pandora Pond warning that the water is contaminated.
A sign at Pandora Pond warning that the water is contaminated.

Federated Farmers thinks something else should also be looked at when it comes to Ahuriri and Pandora's Pond water quality, and that is the Purimu Stormwater discharge into the estuary.

This stormwater system collects rain from the suburbs of Tamatea, Greenmeadows and Taradale, along with everything else washed down with it, discharging it into the estuary near the motorway.

The stormwater is treated only by going through a filter screen. It is even sometimes used as an emergency sewage drain during big rain events.

Napier City Council copes with rain overloading the sewerage system occasionally by doing controlled releases into the Purimu drain, allowing the sewage to flow into the estuary rather than overwhelm the treatment plant.

After Cyclone Debbie in 2017, the council discharged 2.5 million litres of untreated stormwater and wastewater into the Ahuriri estuary.

More recently, on September 6 this year another release occurred after a rain event.

The rain on November 30, the day before the IronMaori event, dropped 10.5 millimetres. Federated Farmers hopes that the council's systems can cope with a middling amount of rain as this.

Napier City Council retiring its farm on the estuary is a red herring, as the main source of the problem appears to be from the stormwater drain moonlighting as a sewage overflow system.


Rhea Dasent is Federated Farmers senior policy adviser