Waikato Regional Council councillors agreed unanimously last week that monitoring of water quality in the Whangamata harbour will commence as soon as practicable. At present monitoring only occurs at Whangamata Beach.
Locals have expressed concerns about the quality of the water in the harbour dating back to the late 1990s. Algae blooms, scum and foam on the surface of the water in the harbour has been observed more frequently in recent years.
Resource consents granted by WRC to Thames-Coromandel District Council for its Waste Water Treatment Plant located in the upper reaches of the harbour require monitoring of water quality in the Waikiekie stream, but not in the harbour itself. That responsibility rests with WRC.
Five yearly monitoring report carried out by TCDC’s consultants in the Waikiekie stream as a condition of its resource consents found that there is a clear decline in ecological parameters, particularly nitrogen and faecal coliforms with progression downstream. The report found that mass load calculations indicate that approximately 60 to 70% of the total nitrogen applied to the land from the Waste Water Treatment Plant irrigation scheme may make its way into the lower parts of the stream which flows into the harbour.
In June 2019 WRC issued an abatement notice to TCDC for breaches of its RMA consent conditions and required compliance with 10 conditions by 30 September 2019. Some conditions have been complied with, but some remain outstanding. Non-compliant conditions included recurrent irrigation volume non-compliance, applying irrigation when climatic conditions did not permit it, inadequate sampling sites, and failure to set up the required community and iwi liaison groups required by the consent.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is currently undertaking an independent investigation into the Whangamata wastewater plant and the Commissioner’s report is expected shortly.
A condition of the resource consents is that they can be reviewed five yearly with the next opportunity being in 2022. WRC regulatory staff have yet to decide whether a review will be undertaken.
Check out other water quality monitoring sites in Thames-Coromandel/Waikato here