7 Aug 2020

Christchurch City Council is investigating the unauthorised digging of a trench on former red-zoned land near Pages Road because planning rules may have been breached.

The land where the trench was dug is currently owned by Land Information New Zealand, on behalf of the Crown. Before that it was privately owned.

“We are in an unusual situation because the person who says he dug the trench across the land is Christchurch City Councillor Phil Mauger. The fact he is an elected official, however, does not mean his actions should be viewed in a different light from those of any other individual,’’ a Christchurch City Council spokesperson says.

“Information we receive about unauthorised work that potentially impacts on our environment and waterways is generally investigated, no matter who is involved.

“Cr Mauger says he was trying to solve a localised flooding issue that was preventing people from using the footpath on part of Pages Road, but the makeshift nature of the trench raises its own issues.

“Work of this scale in the city normally needs to be consented to ensure public safety and environmental protection have been taken into account.

“This trench is potentially a safety hazard because the sides of the trench are unstable and a child could easily fall in.

“A large amount of spoil from the trench has been left on the site. Underground cables have been severed in the digging of the trench and other buried articles such as glass and building materials have been exposed. One of our main concerns is that because the trench runs through land that has been identified as containing old landfill materials and contaminated soils, it could be impacting on the health of the Ōtākaro Avon River.’’

The land where the trench was dug is very low-lying and has been prone to flooding since the earthquakes. It also contains a number of broken and abandoned wastewater, stormwater and drinking water pipes.

“There is not a straightforward drainage solution for the red-zone land and long-term it is likely to revert to wetlands.  Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is in the process of building a drain along Anzac Drive to help alleviate ponding issues at the Pages Road intersection.

“The NZTA drain, which is already making a difference to water levels in the area, is fully consented, properly engineered and includes sediment control measures to ensure there is no unwanted discharge into the Ōtākaro Avon River.

“The Council is also investigating building-up the level of the Pages Road footpath to prevent recurrent flooding. This  investigation work was in train before the trench was dug.''

The Council spokesperson says the priority is to ensure that any environmental damage done or safety risk can be mitigated.

“The Council, as the organisation responsible for maintaining the red-zone, wants to put right what has happened. That could mean we might need to make modifications to the trench to make it safe or we might need to fill it in. We are awaiting the findings of the investigation to determine our next steps.’’