Dirty water is proving to be a big election issue nation-wide, but it's also on the mind of local government
Two major reports on water hit the Auckland Council's environment and community committee today. One looks at the health of the Hauraki Gulf, and the other aims to give residents more information about the state of their beaches. But another, behind-the-scenes move, made a year ago, is also changing the face of the region.
Water Sensitive Design is something developers of green and brownfield land have had to get used to, but most members of the public won't see unless they go looking for it. New housing subdivisions such as Flat Bush, Hobsonville, and Long Bay have incorporated it, but they really just look like a pleasant series of streams, bridges and gardens. They will prove their worth in something they won't produce - water runoff.
Auckland Council is riding the demand for change over the way cities treat water in a way that would have been unthinkable two or three decades ago. It's using the rush of development of subdivisions to introduce concepts that will hopefully revive dead rivers, catch toxins before they hit waterways, and mitigate flooding.
The new development rules mean anyone who wants to build a subdivision must not produce any more runoff than their site would if it was just grassed fields. So instead of just plonking up houses in a grid and concreting everything, they are being forced to look at the site as a whole - where the natural streams are, where they flow to, and where stormwater will end up. Where once they would have built pipes to contain water flow and then houses over the top, waterways are being restored with plants to soak up sediments, rain gardens being installed and features made of ponds. The upside is that with new intensification rules under the council's Unitary Plan, more homes can be built - and once they are, the view will be that much more pleasant.