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Pristine lakes, rivers could become legal dumping ground for Queenstown's sewage

Some of New Zealand's most pristine lakes and rivers could be about to become the legal dumping ground for Queenstown's sewage.

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The public have just two days left to make a submission on the Queenstown Lakes District Council's proposal. Source: Seven Sharp

Seven Sharp reports the public have just two days left to make a submission on the Queenstown Lakes District Council's proposal to deal with the sewage system. The system is clogged up with fats from restaurants and bars, wet wipes, women's products and debris from construction sites.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council has applied to the Otago Regional Council to legally allow it to dump sewage, in cases of overflow, into lakes, for the next 35 years.

The community has not reacted well, many expressing anger over the plan and assuming the council is taking the easy option.

The district council has already been pinged by the regional council for overflows before and this application would just make it legal.

The district council says it believes there's no other option.

But there are even bigger ramifications. Sewage dumps in ever-expanding tourist hot spots Queenstown and Wanaka would travel downstream, with the potential to impact towns as far as Balclutha.

Those looking out for the lakes, like ex-NIWA chief scientist Don Robertson, have been keeping close tabs.

"It's not nice to think of this happening, but it's been happening 200 times in the last four years, of which 14 to 17 have been into water," Mr Robertson said.

"There's a system in Lake Hawea where the sewerage system just up the hill from the town water supply, which is just uphill from the lake. If that happened to pop that could be a bit disastrous," he said.

"We don't think that a 35-year consent is appropriate, but 10 years would be fine."

The council says despite this looking like a licence to pollute, it is a chance to own up to the overflows.

"The outcome is that we have everything really well documented and we can then react on it, putting budgets beside it," a council spokesperson said.

With just two days to go, the public still has time to make submissions on the discharge application.