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Wellington Water deal brings security for Martinborough’s supply

Report from RNZ
A water expert says the likelihood of another bacterial infection in Martinborough’s water supply is low, now that a new agency has taken charge.

The South Wairarapa District Council issued a boil-water notice this month after E coli was detected for the second time in as many months. A boil water notice was issued in February shortly before one of the district’s most popular events, the Martinborough Fair, and lasted for more than two weeks.

A mineral in the town’s water means it cannot be treated to kill germs, in the same way that is done in neighbouring towns.

Wellington Water will now provide the council with its water management services.

Jim Graham from Water New Zealand, a not-for-profit group promoting the sustainable management of waterways, reckons it has the expertise to prevent further problems with the supply. “Wellington Water has a very good record with supplies they run and that record should carry over to South Wairarapa,” he said.

Lower Hutt water clear of E coli

Follow up testing of the Naenae reservoir in Lower Hutt has come back clear of E coli.

Wellington Water issued a notice that testing on Friday indicated the presence of E coli at Naenae reservoir. However, follow-up samples were clear.

During the next three days, Wellington Water will test the water at various locations to ensure it is safe.

Residents are being told to expect the taste and odour of chlorine in their drinking water over the next few days.

News from Wellington Water – April 17
The South Wairarapa District Council today voted to join Wellington Water as a shareholder and become a client of its three waters management services.

Wellington Water is jointly owned by five councils in the Wellington region, the Hutt, Porirua, Upper Hutt and Wellington city councils, and Greater Wellington Regional Council. It was established in 2014 to provide value to councils and communities through taking a regional, long term approach to planning for water services, building a centre of excellence, and identifying efficiencies in service provision with a focus on customers.

Mayor Viv Napier said Council’s decision was a positive step for the community.

‘Wellington Water is a large, specialist provider focused on delivering excellence in three waters services. It has demonstrated its commitment working with each of its councils to understand their priorities and deliver on their long term plans.

‘South Wairarapa has its own distinct needs for water services, and I’m confident Wellington Water will take a customer-first approach in working with the council and residents to understand and meet the needs of our customers.’

The chair of Wellington Water’s shareholder committee and Deputy Mayor of Hutt City, David Bassett, said the other shareholders welcomed the SWDC decision.

‘Each of our council shareholders has seen the benefits that having a combined operation has, both in terms of the depth and breadth of service management and in their strategic planning and advice.

“We also look forward to engaging with mana whenua of the district to help expand our understanding of the catchment, its history, its uses and its particular issues.”

SWDC acting chief executive Jennie Mitchell said Wellington Water represented an excellent opportunity to improve capability in an area of increasing complexity and risk.

‘We’ve had some challenges with our water recently, which Wellington Water has already helped us with. Central Government is looking at reform of the three waters area, and increased regulation for safe drinking water is expected as a result of the Havelock North enquiry. Providing safe and affordable water services will continue to present challenges for smaller councils.

“Joining with Wellington Water will provide ratepayers with a more robust, sustainable and resilient approach to three waters management for the future.”

Earlier news from Business Central
Business Central is urging South Wairarapa councillors to bring in specialist expertise from Wellington Water to help them run a clean, safe water supply system for their population.

“Councillors today have the opportunity to make a really positive difference to improve the resilience of the local water supply. I hope they take this opportunity,” says Chief Executive John Milford.

At this morning’s South Wairarapa District Council extraordinary meeting, councillors are being asked to consider joining Wellington Water, giving the district access to specialist expertise and knowledge. The council owns and operates the town water supply to Featherston, Greytown and Martinborough.

“Businesses support the council staff’s recommendation to proceed with the Wellington Water arrangement,” says Mr Milford.

Business Central is the voice of businesses in the Wairarapa.

“Any decision to have Wellington Water run responsible for running the local water supply changes nothing about the ownership of assets. They remain in local hands,” says Mr Milford. “An independent report, released earlier this month, highlighted concerns around how the local water supply is being managed, as well as its design and operation.

“This report came just days before Martinborough’s water supply was subject to another ‘boil’ notice, demonstrating the difficulty of managing smaller water supply systems.

“Central government is likely to further increase compliance standards for drinking water, and that will require increased local investment and reporting to bring local systems up to scratch.

“The South Wairarapa population is not large, so it makes sense to take advantage of the larger scale water operation and expertise available next door. It is imperative political decision-makers take all the steps they can to prevent an outbreak like the one Havelock North experienced in 2016 where 5,000 fell ill.

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