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Mayor calls meeting on “so many” water issues – “working hard to develop a plan”

News from WCC
A high-level meeting has been called today between the Wellington City Council and Wellington Water Limited, in light of the recent series of issues with Wellington’s water pipes.

“With around 3000km of water pipes and a complex network of equipment and plants sitting behind it, there will always be the occasional issue. But there have been so many in recent months that we need to understand whether there are any systemic issues coming to light now. That will allow us to consider our options and take appropriate action,” says Mayor Andy Foster.

“I want to assure Wellingtonians that the Council is taking this very seriously.

“We’re working hard to understand what’s behind the recent spate of incidents and develop a plan.

“Inevitably, with so many serious issues to manage and limited resource to do it, some lower level work is being deferred by Wellington Water. While this is not ideal, we do understand the reasons for it and ask people to be patient while we resolve the underlying issues.”

Cr Calvert: A civil emergency
Cr Fitzsimons: It’s a crisis

Report from RNZ
Mayor Foster says the meeting today is an effort to restore public confidence Wellington’s waterways were being run as they should be. This afternoon’s meeting will be attended only by Wellington Water, the city council chief executive and members of the city council. The Regional Council, despite being listed as a water authority, has not been invited.

Foster said it was time to ask Wellington Water some frank questions. “It’s really an opportunity for us to ask the questions that we think we need to ask to understand whether the system is being run properly or whether anything needs to be tweaked.”

Wellington Water did not respond yesterday to e-mails or calls from RNZ requesting an interview. The public has accused it of ducking for cover on sharing basic information.

The Karori Residents’ Association was refused a request for data on the level of contamination in the Karori stream, which is rated E.

The authority had also refused to erect safety warnings along the stream, telling residents that if a sign goes up there, signs will have to go up along all streams as they’re all highly contaminated.

Andrea Skews said children played in Karori stream, and the public deserved to know whether there was any danger to health.

“Weekdays and weekends I mean our local kindys and schools go down there and use it and the kids are always, down in the stream and across that and things like that. So we talking about public waterways here. How do the local authorities get away with not having the responsibility to disclose,” she said.

Ōwhiro Bay resident Eugene Doyle has made no secret of his disdain for local authorities. The beach near his house measured up to 30 times the safe level for faecal contamination. He said the councils, Wellington Water and public health have passed the buck for too long.

“We’ve got to actually make sure that we shock the authorities out of the profound complacency, their deep deep sleep and actually start addressing these issues. This is the crisis and it needs to be treated as such.”

8 comments:

  1. Helene Ritchie, 18. February 2020, 20:26

    This seems like a good move on such a fundamental issue for the City. Why has this not always been happening? Good, but it still looks like only inching towards sound asset management and action. Will there be just another report (or many) or a serious exposing and addressing of the structural, financial and public health issues?.

     
  2. TrevorH, 19. February 2020, 7:51

    Here’s a plan: i) scrap the convention centre, WREDA, the airport extension and any other wasteful or non-essential spending and reallocate the money saved to the “3 waters” budget; ii) identify the most at-risk sections of the city’s water management system; iii) start work immediately on replacing them. No need to thank me but I will stay for the free lunch thank you.

     
  3. Neil D., 19. February 2020, 8:57

    @TrevorH – thanks for your clear plan. I second it. Please go out and enjoy a well earned lunch! All we need now is for the Councillors to agree to but unfortunately I can’t see them seeing past their vanity chests.

     
  4. Dr Jenny Condie, 19. February 2020, 9:48

    Looking forward to the briefing today. Clearly we need to improve communication, public health monitoring, and response times to “minor” leaks.
    Interested to understand to what extent there is a systemic problem with pipe maintenance and replacement. [via twitter]

     
  5. michael, 19. February 2020, 13:09

    @TrevorH: Great plan but I wouldn’t hold your breath and – sorry = no free lunch as that should be scrapped as well. Most probably we’ll get a 10 year action plan called “Let’s get the pipes moving again” which will result in years of talking, expensive consultants, glossy publications, and little action.

     
  6. Concerned Wellingtonian, 19. February 2020, 14:50

    It’s good to hear Councillor Condie going to the heart of the problem and the approach which is needed to solve it (at last).

     
  7. Tamatha Paul, 19. February 2020, 15:28

    Thankful for Jill Day’s tireless advocacy for mana whenua involvement in current water infrastructure problems. Mana whenua across Aotearoa have taken local authorities like WCC to environmental court over violation of Te Mana o Te Wai (and won). [via twitter]

     
  8. Concerned Wellingtonian, 19. February 2020, 16:10

    Tamatha, don’t forget that Cr Jill Day is one of the councillors who could have been making noises in their capacity as elected representatives of us poor Wellingtonians, even though some of us are only pakeha. Are you happy with the state in which you have found things?