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Water monitoring in-house reviewed

24 Mar 2016

Water monitoring in-house reviewed

Staff will prepare a further report to the next Environment and Regulatory Committee outlining a comparison in costs since 6 new environmental monitoring roles were created within Council last year.

An update to the committee last week reported on the benefits from moving the monitoring and sampling in-house and the increased outputs staff have been able to achieve.

Shared services science manager Lois Easton said the establishment of the new team has allowed greater capability for regulatory monitoring and research, providing Council with better quality of data and knowledge about our region's environment.

Employing staff has also enabled cost savings of over $94k which has been put towards additional monitoring outputs like intensive water quality testing in the Wainui Stream and a study of ecology in the Motu catchment.

"With staff on board we've been able to implement bio-monitoring and training with iwi and community members and intensive monitoring of flows in the Waipaoa and Te Arai to maintain minimum levels set out in the new Freshwater Plan."

Until last year, Gisborne District Council was the only regional council in the country that did not have monitoring and sample collection by in-house staff members.

"National and local policy on water, and increasing requirements for water monitoring and reporting means the function has progressively become more of our core business.

"Bringing the function back in house was key to being able to do those things effectively," says Ms Easton.

"Analysis of our environmental database and issues are readily accessible and better understood by the technical expertise and knowledge of these staff members."

"Technical advice can be given to teams across Council to inform policy or consent planning."

"We can also offer practical skills for students and career pathways in science and hydrology."

The development of the new roles in Council has led to opportunities for national peer support.

The New Zealand Hydrological Society Technical Group have chosen to hold their national conference in Gisborne in April. 

"Representatives from most regional councils will be at the meeting, which includes a one day 'ADCP Regatta'. Hydrologists will test their gauging devices in one of our waterways and compare results to determine consistent best practice hydrology standards."

Lab testing of water samples is still contracted to a lab outside of the district. The testing is provided at a cost-efficient rate and all testing is achieved within the legal timeframe for the highest standard of water quality.

The committee asked for a breakdown of costs for in-house monitoring for July - December 2015 to compare with the same period the previous year where monitoring was provided through an external contract with local company Hydro Technologies Ltd.