The complicity of mudtanks and stormwater drains personified

Garrick Tremain – 27 Apr 2016
Garrick Tremain 27 Apr 2016 [screenshot]

Election Year : This post is offered in the public interest. -Eds

The Otago Daily Times has undergone a momentary and unsubtle change this fortnight. The newspaper is allowing near ‘ruthless’ honesty in Letters and Online Comments, including rightful naming and shaming (carefully expressed, within context) of individuals and politicians that should no longer be residing at the local authority. Rush in while the door’s Open —we know it is, for the cartoonist deftly flies his drone again! At our city council. (Was GT threatened from on high prior to Election Year, with blanket censorship too ?).

This sudden rush of print-blood happens belatedly, as debate ensues over the council’s (stadium-ripper) lack of investment and professional engagement with core infrastructure services, city-wide.

Not insignificantly, projects led by “pets” continue under the radar via budget lines in the council’s Long-term Plan (LTP) and associated Annual Plans. Of course, the “pets” feel safe from scrutiny since they’ve built up “such amazing” community rapport and goodwill (a cultural following!). Nope, own castles, own keeps, feathering own nests (*not yours!) —spending money that’s not theirs with weak justification, benefitting minor consortiums of private business (*not the wider swathe of our suburban and rural populations!). Supported handsomely (wink wink) by the odd motley politician who wants “back in”, riding the “pets” like a bar saddle to the next paid trimester. Although…. that gratuitously camp ballet scene at Tuesday’s Infrastructure Services Committee meeting : where the doorstepper was conveniently exposed doing rehearsed Q&A with a scapegoat in a hotseat, was an undoing. The video is coming! Equally, someone else nutted on about the girth of pipes in a soliloquy that will endure many viewings.

While ODT meets the temperature of its audience – at the same time, the council offers little that’s honest, immediate or genuine for the people it has ill-advisedly brought flood, damage and distress to. Surely, the worst-affected should see financial re-dress from this (highly indebted) can’t-pay council. Wethinks fixing, maintaining and upgrading council-owned infrastructure is Not Quite Enough to assuage the greater collective conscience…. There could be, however, real satisfaction seeing the council get the deep cut and tuck, a razor slash. Bringing an ungainly end to bully girls’ vanity and sly defective green-tinged parlour acts that buck off without trimming a balance sheet.

Honing to essentials, the art of cartoon mayhem.

ODT 27.4.16 (page 12)

ODT 27.4.16  Letters to editor Menzies Mathieson Greensmith-West Wallace p12 (1)

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

[alternative title for post: ‘that’s not mud, it’s dogshit’]


Filed under Baloney, Business, Climate change, Democracy, District Plan, Dunedin, Economics, Finance, Geography, Hot air, Infrastructure, Media, Name, New Zealand, Ombudsman, People, Pet projects, Politics, Project management, Property, Proposed 2GP, Public interest, Resource management, Site, South Dunedin, Stadiums, Town planning, Transportation, Travesty

27 responses to “The complicity of mudtanks and stormwater drains personified

  1. Elizabeth

    Thu, 28 Apr 2016
    ODT: ‘Third-world’ roading upsets residents (+ video)
    The “third-world” roading conditions being created by Dunedin City Council contractors while renewing the water mains in Kaikorai is leaving some residents angry and impatient for it to be finished. The work involves renewing individual property water pipes (service lines) within the carriageway, and replacing old tobies (water shut-off valves) with new modern manifold boxes outside private properties.

    • ab

      Needs are many fold. It is not ‘Third World’. The gutters are not lavatories, the road has not subsided, there are no Brahman beating up Untouchables, and no cows eating up the harvest. It is..Roadworks. Herd of Roadworks? In the end, it gives you something to go on.

  2. Elizabeth

    Dunedin South MP Clare Curran is absolutely right.
    The mayor (lower case) is Not.

    Curran calls for DCC apology to the people of South Dunedin and creation of a “short term action plan” to ensure the community is protected in future heavy rain events.

    Thu, 28 Apr 2016
    ODT: Cull to Curran: We are past appointing blame
    Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull has dismissed criticism from a local MP that councillors let themselves off the hook from taking responsibility for last June’s flood … “[Curran: The meeting] turned into an exercise of councillors letting themselves off the hook for any accountability around the extent of last year’s flooding devastation, particularly in South Dunedin.” She also questioned the decision by infrastructure and networks general manager Ruth Stokes to level the blame at staff for the failure and not councillors.

    Staff are disciplined [“employment processes”] —while councillors pat themselves on the back ? While the ladies ride shotgun.

    How Cull does away with his mayoralty in less than a concentrated week of tasteless, bad and immoral public statements – repeated across national MSM and social media. You can’t buy a car crash like this.

    Extraordinary callous times — it only takes callous irrational people. Baggages.

  3. Ray

    This is not looking good for the election of David Cull

  4. russandbev

    I cannot help but think of how major events or issues are dealt with here in NZ and overseas and how the truth is revealed – sometimes many many years after the event or issue occurred. The Coroner’s Court in Liverpool has finally found where responsibility lay for the deaths of 96 people at the Hillsborough ground. It has now been revealed that the Police and other authorities spent millions and millions of pounds obscuring the truth and in protecting themselves. They were aided and abetted by a scurrilous Sun newspaper who published damaging and untruthful stories laying the blame on the tragedy on the victims.

    What is interesting is that the UK is now working on accountability with those responsible for their actions and covering up those actions likely to appear in Court on very serious charges. None of this would have happened without years and years of dedicated work by the families of the victims and those that believe in “official” responsibility and accountability.

    We only need to think of Pike River to see the difference, and it would pay all of us to ensure that the current preferred options by those who are being paid huge amounts are, when appropriate and right, held both responsible and accountable for their actions when those actions are found to be damaging to others. That is going to take time, effort and dedication. And let us not forget the fate of whistle-blowers in these events – how often are those that try to expose wrongdoers ridiculed or threatened? From the lowly constables that knew the truth at Hillsborough but were too frightened to expose their bosses, to the miners at Pike who were frightened they would lose their jobs.

    Whenever I read comments by those in responsible positions that it is “time to move on” or “lessons have been learned” or when I see history being rewritten either by denying the things that they have said or done, then I think of the efforts of those that finally expose the truth.

    Calling for accountability is not to be confused with vindictiveness. And ensuring those with a culture of being unwilling to be accountable don’t get into positions where they can adopt the same attitudes as those at Hillsborough or Pike or lots of other places I can think of should be one of our community’s basic goals.

    • Hype O'Thermia

      russandbev – hear hear! Applause!

      Out of an extremely good post this sentence may be the one we should remember and speak loudly when we are told “it is “time to move on” or “lessons have been learned” ” :
      “Calling for accountability is not to be confused with vindictiveness.”

  5. Calvin Oaten

    “Extraordinary callous times — it only takes callous irrational people.” It also takes people with little intellect and the inability to see reality even when it stares him/her in the face.

  6. Elizabeth

    Song and dance

    Douglas Field Published on Apr 27, 2016
    The Great Pretender
    A satirical observation on the leadership ‘style’ of certain local body politicians

    Comment at ODT Online today:

    Ducking and weaving
    Submitted by sv3nn0 on Thu, 28/04/2016 – 7:49am.

    Among all the stress of the floods it’s actually funny to see Cull ducking and weaving to avoid blame. He blames the contractor, he blames his staff and then as soon as someone blames him we are “past appointing blame.” [Abridged]

  7. Elizabeth


    Nightly Interview: Clare Curran
    Members of the South Dunedin Action Group are calling on authorities to improve local infrastructure. They’re concerned the community’s not properly protected against heavy rainfall and flooding, like what was seen last June. Group leader Clare Curran joins us to explain.
    Ch39 Link

  8. JimmyJones

    Clare Curran has been helpful. As a former Spin-doctor, she recognizes the efforts of the DCC’s communications team. She mentioned that Climate Change has been blamed as being a major cause of the flooding, when in fact it played no part. I observe that both of the DCC flood reports show signs of being written by spin-doctors. The aim seems to be to protect the guilty.

    Clare recognizes the DCC’s attempt to discourage action by telling us that it would cost ratepayers “tens of millions of dollars” to upgrade the stormwater system to meet the DCC’s own specified standard (able to withstand a one-in-10-year event). Many of us were given the impression that the DCC had already met this standard. We were deceived, because in most parts of South Dunedin the performance is a feeble one-in-2-year event capability.

    I think that Clare doesn’t fully understand the stormwater problem. The DCC are about to fix the cheap, easy and obvious things like the Portobello Rd pump screens and control system and the mud-tank maintenance. These are important, but there are a number of other defects that they don’t want to publicize which are a much bigger problem. These are mainly to do with pipes in the ground – blocked, collapsed, silted and undersized. And probably we need another pumping station and a new configuration.

    We need not concern ourselves with the details of what should be done, only that everything necessary is done so that the system can perform to a specification that prevents a repeat of the June flood (this was thought to be a one in 30 year event).

    To achieve a properly functioning stormwater system will require money. Not extra rates money and not more debt, but some big sacrifices from Dave and Jinty etc – cancelling their silly Environment Strategy, the Energy Strategy, the various destructive car-hating projects, the DCC funded staff for the ORFU etc. The list is long – and so we can fix the stormwater, cut all the non-productive, non-infrastructure, wasteful, unwanted, hippy-dippy projects and have some money left over to pay off some debt. Problem solved.

    • Elizabeth

      Clare Curran, with South Dunedin Action Group, has on board independent engineers who know the score technically; and fully appreciate the effects on the resident population and businesses seriously affected by DCC incompetence with stormwater infrastructure. The “dialogue” is only just beginning. Let’s give fair dues, Clare is the only one who has attempted co-ordination – she doesn’t have to know the technicals, and she is learning her way in, taking advice. So good so far.

  9. Calvin Oaten

    There is more than a grain of truth in what Jimmy Jones says, but who knows what the underground situation of the stormwater network is like?
    I doubt any but perhaps a few in the building are privy to that kind of knowledge. Two things influence my thinking on the subject. One is the reports and comments of both Neil Johnstone MIPENZ and Bruce Hendry, former DCC surveyor vitally involved in the 50s 60s upgrade of the South Dunedin drainage system including the construction of the Portobello Pumping Station. Second, how many times has the South Dunedin area been flooded to the same extent as in June 2015 since the upgrade? To my recollection not many, if at all. So, what brought this event about? It has been proven or admitted that the rain event was no greater than has been experienced before and that ground water levels were as normal prior to the event. It is conceded that the relative mudtanks were at least 70% compromised and that the inlet screens at the pumping station were seriously blocked. Doesn’t seem to be rocket science required to work out the problem. Just how to get around the matter without any blame being placed on any DCC actions seems the main exercise. That has been amply demonstrated by both the report which has taken ten months since the event to produce plus the pathetic performance by the councillors at the Infrastructure Services committee meeting on Tuesday 26 April meeting. The citizen victims of the floods have been well and truly shafted in the interests of the politicians’ attempts to distance the DCC from any culpability. Shameful really.

    • Elizabeth

      Hazards engineer Neil Johnstone MIPENZ is a member of the action group. There are other men available with knowledge of the stormwater system, who also used to work for DCC (when it knew what it was doing!) including Bruce Hendry, and drainage and roading workers and engineers (some resident in South Dunedin and who attended the public meeting on 7 March). The South Dunedin Action Group is well served.

    • JimmyJones

      Calvin: it’s hard to separate the effect of the blocked mud-tanks from the obstructions in the buggered pipes from the restricted pump screens at Portobello Rd. We know from the DCC flood reports that the pumping flow was reduced from the pumps maximum design capacity of a fairly feeble 6.3 cubic meters per second to about 4.0 cubic meters per second. This made the flooding significantly worse. The DCC modeling shows that the flood-waters would have been 195mm lower if the design flow rate could have been maintained.

      This reduced flow of 4.0 cu m/s was the result of the combined restrictions of the blocked pump screens and the restrictions from the old, buggered pipes, so even if the screens were not blocked, the flow may not have reached the maximum because of the restricted pipes. The widely varying condition of the pipes will have meant that the flooding was much worse in some areas than others.

      The ICMPs (2011) are an independent (or semi-independent) assessment of the city’s storm water system. There is one for each catchment. For South Dunedin it tells us the condition of the pipes, the worst places to live and that parts of the system can cope with a rain event as small as one in two years. This is a very poor level of service and is completely unsatisfactory.

      The DCC thinks a one in two years level of service is fine: the Water And Waste group manager tells us (ODT, 27 Apr 2016) that – The three waters strategy signed off by council in 2010 was premised on investing and renewing infrastructure to maintain ‘‘existing levels of service” – which meant a low-level of service in some areas. So, she is saying that the policy approved by councilors in 2010 was make no improvements, even in places like South Dunedin where the stormwater performance was (and still is) really crap. Councillors and staff accepted this do nothing policy and in doing so left South Dunedin at risk of the consequences. At the time Cr John Bezett praised the “excellent” document (ODT, 2 Feb 2010). It seems like they didn’t know what they were doing.

      • Elizabeth

        JimmyJones: what sources have you for blocked or buggered stormwater pipes – DCC hasn’t mentioned these (technically) lately. You might have local knowledge or know someone who has? Please shed light if you can. We have heard about old pipes acting like field drains, but that’s roughly all I can recall (via media and LGOIMA – from ex City Surveyor Bruce Hendry, I think).

        • Hype O'Thermia

          Queried about blocked pipes and inspection, answer was that they had been checked by looking down mudtraps because sending the ?camera? inspection gear down would cost too much and take a long time. From memory from the meeting.

        • Elizabeth

          Uh yes. You and another off this website remind me that the person who can’t be named by this website (unless I see her in court ¿¿¿♡) muttered something on Tuesday at ISC. But it was terribly unqualified and unquantified since it did not appear ‘factually and emperically’ in any DCC report I have seen in the last 11 months – then too, DCC refused to answer my January 25 LGOIMA which included an ask about blockages…. now in the hands of the Ombudsman.

        • Elizabeth

          So. If your mudtanks are gunked up in the percentages claimed, was any little camera going to show much – or are we at risk of a DCC fatal sample process which simply never looks at the whole stormwater system. She’ll be right.

          Or maybe City Care knows even if it has yet to finish its clearance of mudtanks this month.

          I remain ever hopeful that DCC is a legit outfit.

          The Wild and Bewildered.

        • JimmyJones

          The South Dunedin Integrated Catchment Management Plan (ICMP) describes many of the problems with the pipes. The ICMPs are here.
          Here are some random quotes about the pipes:

          — An analysis of the South Dunedin pipe network indicates that a number of pipes are over 100 years old (the theoretical life of stormwater pipes). Of note are the pipe networks on Hargest Crescent, Queens Drive, Royal Crescent and the Bay View Road / Portobello Road intersection; all areas where flooding issues or hydraulic bottlenecks have been identified.
          — Network age could be contributing to adverse effects on a number of levels; via under-sized reticulation causing flooding; poor condition increasing pipe roughness hence reducing conveyance capability; or breaks and cracks allowing contaminant or salt water ingress.
          — Failure to remove silt and gravel from the catchpits [mud-tanks] can also lead to siltation and hence capacity reduction of the pipe network; siltation has been identified as an issue in some areas of Dunedin
          — Flooding in the Ascot Street / Royal Crescent area is most likely to be driven by a combination of undersized local pipes and the hydraulic grade line from the confluence of the system with the Portobello Road stormwater lines. [various other undersized pipes mentioned]
          — Hydraulic bottlenecks have been identified in a number of locations, where they are causing manhole overflows, resulting in nuisance and deep flooding. Although the entire network has a low level of service, attention to these bottlenecks would most likely reduce the severity of flooding in the particular locations affected.
          — Network Condition and Age: The age of the assets could be a
          concern for several reasons; impedance of flow (poor condition), leakage (in or out), and contaminant ingress (from pipes passing through contaminated sites)
          — Progressive network upgrades and coordination of works (renewal and upgrade) may enable the hydraulic bottlenecks to be resolved via infrastructural solutions, however local improvements and flood protection works may be required in the short to medium term.
          — Because deep flooding in the South Dunedin catchment is predicted to affect a number of habitable floors, it is categorised as manage actively. Options for mitigation of flood effects will be explored, in conjunction with the pipe renewals process which may have an influence on some areas.
          — Because of the potential for groundwater infiltration (potentially contaminated), and the low pipe gradients in the catchment, the assessment of the ageing pipe network in the South Dunedin catchment should be prioritised as part of the DCC renewals programme. The extent to which the stormwater network is providing land drainage (‘drawing down’ the groundwater levels) in the catchment would, however, need to be examined with respect to the potential replacement of pipes – new pipes would result in less infiltration, and hence potentially raise the groundwater in some locations.
          — The current level of service for the network in this catchment varies across the catchment, but is approximately equivalent to a 1 in 2 yr ARI rainfall event.

        • Elizabeth

          Thanks JimmyJones – when last I glimpsed the ICMP I considered that a lot of it seemed to be suppositional, perhaps with good intent.
          But I’ve never been a fan of OPUS for accuracy…. sad as that may be.

          The DCC opens with: “We will use the ICMP to inform investigation and planning decisions and to help focus our priorities for future operational and capital works.” [my italics]

          Without the investigation, no proper analysis…. informed or trite guesswork ??

        • JimmyJones

          Elizabeth: This South Dunedin ICMP proved to be very accurate about the Portobello Rd pump screens and is quite damming about the mud-tank (catch-pit) maintenance and the very bad state of the pipes. It shows that there are many bottlenecks which were causing actual flooding (as of 2010). These bottlenecks correspond to where the oldest pipes are as well as where there are pipes that are too small.

          The ICMP proposes a triage system aimed at minimizing costs and doing almost nothing. This involves accepting the risk of serious flooding. It tells us that the whole system is knackered – a level of service of coping with a 1 in 2 year rainfall event is appalling – what you might find at a refugee camp. Since it was published (2011) it looks like things have got even worse with the pump screen clearing and the mudtank maintenance. The pipe renewals is so slow that the pipes are wearing out faster than they are being replaced.

          It is unwise to accept the conclusions of any consultant report, but they often have useful facts. The internal documents will be well defended and unobtainable (unless you know some very good burglars), so these ICMPs are a useful glimpse into a serious situation.

        • JimmyJones

          The South Dunedin Integrated Catchment Management Plan is here » Read It (pdf)

      • Calvin Oaten

        Jimmy, I hear what you say, but the question is, are the pipes ‘buggered’ or simply blocked? When the mud tanks are not performing adequately due to not being cleaned (emptied of waste) then it is natural that solids will find its way into the grid. Road dust and silt saturated sets like pug concrete in grids with minimal fall as South Dunedin’s is. That restricts the pipes’ water carrying capacity hence the back up and flooding. That this is happening is proven by the fact that the intake screens at the pumping station were blocking. Seems a simple scenario to follow with the self evidence of the mud tank maintenance schedule being an admitted disaster. How it took 10 months to deduce this can only be assumed as a frantic search for a story to pitch. And we now know how pathetic that turned out. Roll on October I say.

        • Hype O'Thermia

          Calvin, your observation that “Road dust and silt saturated sets like pug concrete” is similar to what the sucker truck operators told Cr Vandervis:

          “I talked to the guys operating the Invercargill sucker-truck, and they said they hated doing Dunedin mud-tanks because most Dunedin tanks had been done so seldom that the road grit set like concrete in the bottom of them and they had to be chipped out with a crowbar before the sediment could be properly sucked out. The sucker-truck operators said that this made doing mudtanks properly in Dunedin a very slow job doing only an average of 35 tanks a day, whereas in properly regularly sucked Invercargill they could do an average of up to 170 tanks a day.”
          Wed, 04 Nov 2015,

    • Hype O'Thermia

      Why all the angst?
      “If following inspection, there is a blocked mudtank it will be remedied. FYI, this is the standard process we follow when we receive advice from a member of the public that there may be an issue with mudtank(s) in a particular area.” To Lee on 17/01/14 9:15 AM from an unnameable personne,

      See, all it ever took was for people to mention their concerns about any mudtank when they noticed it.
      It’s not mayor and councillors’ fault, it’s not DCC staff’s fault, it’s not contractor’s fault – it’s our fault.
      Duckshove completed! Champers and sticky buns all round, that’ll only be another dollar-per on the rates.

  10. Gurglars

    I’d elect the South Dunedin action group to run the council. At the least we would be paying people who know their business rather than a whole lot of managers, more able at managing their own salaries than managing a myriad of areas that this council has caused a total fail.

    A list, just add to

    Stadium, Mudtank cleaning contract, car thefts, trade me watching, South Dunedin cycleway, State Highway 1 cycleway, Portobello pumping station etc etc.

    Might be a good idea for the council to limit its activities, less activities less failures, less staff, less debt!

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