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  Council » Policies and Plans » Rules and regulation » Waikato Regional Plan » Waikato Regional Plan (online version) » 3.5 Discharges* » 3.5.7 Implementation Methods - On-Site Sewage Discharges

3.5.7 Implementation Methods - On-Site Sewage Discharges

3.5.7.1 Integrated Management

Whilst recognising that the Council has primary responsibility for managing the adverse effects of discharges from on-site sewage systems, Waikato Regional Council will work with territorial and health authorities to identify locally appropriate solutions where effects on the environment from on-site domestic sewage discharges are found to be unsustainable. This is to include:

  1. Outlining responsibilities for administration of regional rules in order to promote inter agency efficiency and effectiveness.
  2. Promoting land use controls in district plans to discourage the use of inappropriate systems in sensitive receiving environments or where existing systems are shown to be inadequate.
  3. Initiate plan changes in sensitive receiving environments or where existing systems are shown to be inadequate.
  4. Recognising and making practical provision for management and maintenance of onsite sewage systems to ensure that the objectives of this Plan are achieved.

3.5.7.2 Plan Change

As a matter of priority, develop a change to the Waikato Regional Plan and, if necessary, Waikato RPS addressing the following matters:

  1. Refining the rules in this Plan to provide greater flexibility and clarity for resource users, including provision of design requirements for in-ground renovation where necessary.
  2. Identifying where systems are having adverse effects on ground water.
  3. Investigating how the Australia/New Zealand Standard for the Management of On-Site Sewage Systems AS/NZ1547:2000 can be integrated in the rules.
  4. Amending rules to address adverse effects in sensitive receiving environments or where existing systems are shown to be inadequate.
  5. Developing processes in conjunction with territorial authorities to ensure sewage systems are upgraded where appropriate.
  6. Record keeping and monitoring, including records of system location, design and maintenance history.
  7. Monitoring and enforcing compliance with regional rules.
  8. Cost recovery.
  9. Links to responsibilities under other legislation especially the Health Act 1956 and Waste Management Plans prepared under the Local Government Act 1974.

3.5.7.3 Good Practice

Waikato Regional Council will, in conjunction with territorial authorities, industry groups and individuals, provide guidance in the development and use of guidelines and codes of practice promoting environmental practices and new technology designed to avoid, remedy or mitigate the adverse effects of on-site sewage disposal systems. In particular, Waikato Regional Council will promote the use of Auckland Regional Council (1994) On-Site Wastewater Disposal from Household and Institutions (TP581) or any update or equivalent code of practice.

3.5.7.4 Permitted Activity Rule – Discharge of Domestic Sewage from Existing OnSite Systems

The discharge of domestic sewage effluent (including grey water but not including stormwater) into land outside the Lake Taupo Catchment from an on-site domestic sewage treatment and disposal system that was lawfully established or authorised before the date of notification of this Plan (28 September 1998), is a permitted activity subject to the following conditions:

  1. The volume of effluent to be discharged from any one system shall not exceed 1.3 cubic metres per day averaged over any one month period.
  2. There shall be no direct discharge of effluent into water.
  3. During times of normal wet winter groundwater level, there shall be at least 600 millimetres separation distance between the groundwater level and the bottom of the disposal trench.
  4. The discharge shall not result in any objectionable effects from odour beyond the boundary of the subject property.
  5. For discharges from systems installed after 11 July 1994, the effective disposal area* for any treatment and disposal system shall be no less than 2,500 square metres.
  6. For discharge from properties which, at the date of authorisation of the systems exceeded 2,500 square metres, this Rule shall not apply where, subsequently, the effective disposal area* is reduced to less than 2,500 square metres.
  7. For discharges from properties which, at the date of authorisation of the system, were less than 2,500 square metres, this Rule shall not apply where, subsequently, the effective disposal area is reduced.
  8. The discharge shall not occur within 20 metres of a Significant Geothermal Feature.
  9. Should the treatment and/or disposal system fail to the extent that either the treatment system or disposal system needs to be substantially replaced, and an effluent outlet filter is not part of the system, one should be fitted as part of the system reinstatement. If the property is less than 2,500 square metres and there are two or more on-site wastewater treatment systems (septic tanks) within 50 metres of the disposal field, the reinstated system shall meet the conditions of Rule 3.5.7.6.

Advisory Notes:

  • The process for assessing odour is specified in Section 6.4.1.3 of the Plan.
  • Discharges of contaminants into or onto land within 20 metres of a Significant Geothermal Feature are addressed by Rules 7.6.6.1 to 7.6.6.3 of this Plan. Significant Geothermal Features are defined in the Glossary, and in Development and Limited Development Geothermal Systems, identified on maps in Section 7.10 of this Plan.
  • These existing systems will generally be adequate provided that land and soil conditions are suitable and that regular filter cleaning and desludging is undertaken.
  • If discharges from an existing septic tank or number of septic tanks are resulting in water users or ecosystems being adversely affected, Council reserves the right to take enforcement action to require the owners of the systems to comply with their duties under s17 of the RMA.
  • Discharges of domestic sewage within the Lake Taupo Catchment are to be managed by rule 3.10.6.1 to 3.10.6.4 or rule 3.5.7.7.

3.5.7.5 Permitted Activity Rule – Discharge of Domestic Sewage from New On-Site Systems

The discharge of domestic sewage effluent (including grey water but not stormwater) onto or into land outside the Lake Taupo Catchment from an on-site domestic sewage treatment and disposal system lawfully established or authorised after the date of notification of this Plan (28 September 1998), is a permitted activity subject to the following conditions:

  1. The volume of effluent to be discharged from any one system shall not exceed 1.3 cubic metres per day averaged over any one month period.
  2. The minimum total septic tank size shall be no less than 3,000 litres.
  3. There shall be no direct discharge of effluent into water.
  4. During times of normal wet winter groundwater level, there shall be at least 600 millimetres separation distance between the groundwater level and the bottom of the disposal trench.
  5. The discharge shall not result in any objectionable odour beyond the boundary of the subject property.
  6. The effective disposal area* for any one treatment and disposal system discharge shall be not less than 2,500 square metres. The discharge shall no longer comply with this Rule where the effective disposal area* is subsequently reduced to less than 2,500 square metres.
  7. The sewage disposal system shall not be sited within 20 metres of a Natural State Water Body or Fisheries Class Water Body as specified in the Water Management Class Maps, and 10 metres from any other surface water body.
  8. The sewage disposal system shall not be sited within 30 metres of any potable water supply well unless the well is drawing from a separate, confined aquifer.
  9. The discharge shall not occur within 20 metres of a Significant Geothermal Feature.
  10. The septic tank shall be fitted with an effluent outlet filter.
  11. The wastewater system shall be designed and installed such that there will be no adverse change in groundwater quality as a result of the discharge, or in combination with other discharges.

Advisory Notes:

    • The process for assessing odour is specified under Section 6.4.1.3 of the Plan.
    • It is recommended that on-site systems are designed, constructed, operated and maintained in accordance with (Auckland Regional Council 2004 On-site Wastewater Systems Design and Management Manual – Technical Publication Third Edition).
    • Discharges of contaminants into or onto land within 20 metres of a Significant Geothermal Feature are addressed by Rules 7.6.6.1 to 7.6.6.3 of this Plan. Significant Geothermal Features are defined in the Glossary, and in Development and Limited Development Geothermal Systems, identified on maps in Section 7.10 of this Plan.
    • Discharges of domestic sewage within the Lake Taupo Catchment are to be managed by rule 3.10.6.1 to 3.10.6.4 or rule 3.5.7.7.

3.5.7.6 Permitted Activity Rule – Discharge of Sewage from Improved On-Site Domestic Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems

Except as provided for by Rule 3.5.7.5, the discharge of domestic sewage effluent (including grey water but not including stormwater) onto or into land outside the Lake Taupo Catchment from an on-site domestic sewage treatment and disposal system is a permitted activity subject to the following conditions:

  1. The volume of effluent to be discharged shall not exceed three cubic metres per day averaged over any one month period.
  2. The design, construction, operation and maintenance of the system shall meet the following standards:
    1. pre-treatment of effluent to a standard not to exceed concentrations of 20g/m3 of Biological Oxygen Demand and 30g/m3 of suspended solids
    2. during times of normal wet winter groundwater level, there shall be at least 600 millimetres separation distance between the groundwater level and the bottom of the disposal trench or 300 millimetres between the groundwater level and dripper irrigation lines, where dripper irrigation lines are used and the design loading rate for effluent disposal is less than five millimetres/day.
    3. there shall be no adverse change in groundwater quality as a result of the discharge, or in combination with other discharges
    4. there shall be no adverse change in surface water quality as a result of the discharge, or in combination with other discharges
    5. there shall be no direct discharge of effluent into groundwater or surface water.
  3. The discharge shall not result in any objectionable effects from odour beyond the boundary of the subject property.
  4. The sewage disposal system shall not be sited within 30 metres of a Natural State Water Body or Fisheries Class Water Body as specified in the Water Management Class Maps, and 10 metres from any other surface water body.
  5. Written proof of compliance with this Rule shall be provided to the Waikato Regional Council on require in the form of either:
    1. certification by a person who is qualified and experienced in the field of onsite sewage treatment and disposal that the system will consistently satisfy the above standards taking into account the relevant site constraints, or
    2. documentation which demonstrates achievement of the standards.
  6. The discharge shall not occur within 20 metres of a Significant Geothermal Feature.

Advisory Notes:

    • The process for assessing odour is specified under Section 6.4.1.3 of the Plan.
    • Discharges of contaminants into or onto land within 20 metres of a Significant Geothermal Feature are addressed by Rules 7.6.6.1 to 7.6.6.3 of this Plan. Significant Geothermal Features are defined in the Glossary, and in Development and Limited Development Geothermal Systems, identified on maps in Section 7.10 of this Plan.
    • Discharges of domestic sewage within the Lake Taupo Catchment are to be managed by rule 3.10.6.1 to 3.10.6.4 or rule 3.5.7.7.

3.5.7.7 Discretionary Activity Rule – Other On-Site Sewage Discharges

The discharge of domestic sewage effluent from on-site domestic sewage treatment and disposal systems onto or into land and any subsequent discharges of contaminants into air, in a manner which does not comply with Rules 3.5.7.4 to 3.5.7.6 and Rules 3.10.6.1 to 3.10.6.4 is a discretionary activity (requiring resource consent).

Exclusion to Rule 3.5.7.7:
Discharge of contaminants within 20 metres of Significant Geothermal Features are excluded from this rule. The effects of these activities are managed by Rule 7.6.6.1 to 7.6.6.3 of this Plan.

Advisory Note:

  • Information requirements to enable the assessment of any application under this Rule are set out in Section 8.1.2.2 of this Plan. In addition, assessment shall also take into account the matters identified in the policies in Section 3.5.3 of this Plan.
  • Significant Geothermal Features are defined in the Glossary, and in Development and Limited Development Geothermal Systems, identified on maps in Section 7.10 of this Plan.

3.5.7.8 Prohibited Activity Rule – Discharges of Untreated Human Effluent to Water

The discharge of untreated human effluent to water is a prohibited activity.

 

Explanation and Principal Reasons for Adopting Methods 3.5.7.1 to 3.5.7.8
Method 3.5.7.1 and 3.5.7.2 promote inter-agency integration. The management of onsite sewage discharges is a function that is shared by a number of agencies with overlapping responsibilities. Where a ‘problem area’ is identified, it is appropriate that Waikato Regional Council, the relevant territorial and health authorities and the community are all involved in addressing the issue. Reference to ‘locally appropriate’ solutions acknowledges that there is no single prescription for dealing with these issues and that community input to developing a solution is important. Waikato Regional Council acknowledges that the continued operation of on-site systems in some high-density areas may not be sustainable in the long term. In such circumstances, the appropriate course of action will be a Plan change allowing input from potentially affected parties.

With regard to the administration of the regional rules for on-site sewage, territorial authorities have in the past provided a ‘one stop shop’ for people. This has involved combining an advisory and checking role with regard to the on-site sewage rules with their own building and drainage permitting functions. This has been an efficient and practical arrangement, which has suited both the territorial authorities and Waikato Regional Council. The general practice has been for territorial authorities to refer any matters to Waikato Regional Council if they consider that the applicability of the rules to a specific proposal is unclear, or if there are questions of rule interpretation. As part of the implementation of these methods, these administrative arrangements will need to be reviewed and formally agreed upon.

Method 3.5.7.3 indicates Waikato Regional Council’s support for the development of codes of practice or ‘good practice’ guides that seek to avoid the adverse effects of on-site disposal. These are an effective method of improving practice particularly if their development involves input from both practitioners and planners in the field.

The permitted activity Rules 3.5.7.4 to 3.5.7.6 apply to domestic on-site wastewater discharges outside the Lake Taupo Catchment, and implement Policies 1, 2 and 3. Permitted activity rules 3.10.6.1 to 3.10.6.4 apply to domestic on-site wastewater discharges within the Lake Taupo Catchment. This is because it would be unreasonable to require all existing systems to be updated without direct evidence of their failure. The thresholds for volume and depth of unsaturated ground are based on the design assumptions that would have been applied when those systems were installed and represent a maximum reasonable flow rate from a large household or small institution. The minimum property size of 2,500 square metres is set at a level that should not lead to adverse effects on groundwater quality provided the system is maintained. If the system is not being maintained adequately, the property size decreases so that the effective disposal area is less or the system fails completely owners will be required to upgrade their technology to meet the criteria provided by Policy 1.

Rule 3.5.7.5 sets out the requirements for new systems using older technology. These systems are still suitable in situations where the effective disposal area is large enough and located correctly and the system is subject to regular maintenance.

Rule 3.5.7.6 reflects the fact that modern on-site sewage treatment/disposal technology has made significant advances in recent years. Modern systems designed with regard to the range of site factors affecting performance can overcome most of the problems associated with the use of standard septic tanks. Any system designed to take account of the various site factors and which can be demonstrated to achieve the environmental standards of Rule 3.5.7.6 should be permitted. These standards seek to prevent adverse effects on water quality and soils. In particular, they seek to protect existing uses of ground water and require that there is no degradation of surface water quality.

Under this Rule the maximum discharge volume of three cubic metes per day (condition c)) would provide for the equivalent of approximately 15 persons average occupancy. This Rule caters for many small amenities such as motels and clubrooms. This volume is significantly higher than that allowed for household septic tanks. The difference reflects the comparative levels of risk associated with the different systems and the better performance that is expected from a site-specifically designed system. The specification of an upper volume limit in the rules is considered appropriate. Volumes greater than this (with proportionately greater potential adverse environmental effects) should be evaluated on a casebycase basis through the consent process.

Documentation which demonstrates that the on-site effluent disposal system installed achieves the standards (condition e) may be in the form of a letter or certificate outlining the specifications of a system and compliance with the standards.

Rule 3.5.7.7 requires on-site sewage discharges that fall outside of the scope of the permitted activity rules to be assessed as discretionary activities in accordance with Policies 1 and 3 of this Chapter. This provides for these discharges to be assessed against s104 of the RMA on a casebycase basis.

Rule 3.5.7.8 prohibits the discharge of untreated human effluent into water. This is necessary to avoid the potential adverse effects of such discharges, to ensure consistency with the manner in which untreated animal effluent is addressed in the Plan and to align the Plan provisions with marine pollution regulations.

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