Wellington Scoop

Another emergency – are they struggling?


by Lindsay Shelton
On Friday, Wellington Water’s chief executive said “we would be struggling if anything else was to happen.” Then yesterday, Wellington Water announced another emergency.

The “struggling” comment was reported by the DomPost:

Wellington Water chief executive Colin Crampton said the current situation at Moa Point had not detracted any workers from the job on Willis Street, but they were reaching full capacity. “We would be struggling if anything else was to happen.”

And here’s what was announced yesterday:

Since yesterday’s announcement, Wellington Water has provided no more information about the new emergency.

The company’s website doesn’t mention it. And the website’s news section doesn’t provide the update promised for yesterday about the South Coast breakdown.

Leaving us entitled to ask: is Wellington Water struggling?

On Friday, Mayor Andy Foster was saying the city needed to keep its infrastructure “working as best we can.” Hardly an encouraging ambition.

The recent spate of issues had prompted some questioning, Foster said. “Out of these different incidents there are some extra questions that we’ve asked Wellington Water, some things that we might learn from them.” The monitoring regime and how often certain pipes were inspected may be considered further, he said. “We want to keep our infrastructure working as best we can.”

Andy should tell us what questions have been asked. And what answers have been given. And what assurances, if assurances are possible.

July 2019: Wellington Water signs $170m deal with French company to run its wastewater plants
August 2019: Wellington Water deeply sorry for polluting Porirua Harbour
September 2019: Wellington Water fined $67,000 for discharging sewage sludge


  1. michael, 28. January 2020, 10:19

    Absolutely agree. All we have heard from our Mayor is many of the aged pipes might have 20-30 more years, and they will fix pipes ASAP when they burst. This is not serious planning and is not creating confidence in the WCC, who are ultimately responsible for ensuring Wellington City has good-quality local infrastructure. Chances are that wemay have more pipes burst soon, especially as there are a lot more apartment buildings coming on-line putting more pressure on the pipes, so what is going to happen then? Perhaps, a new sewerage pond called Wellington Harbour?

  2. KB, 28. January 2020, 11:27

    Have to wonder if this is a delayed effect from the large quakes over last several years. The pipes didn’t fail initially, but instead many developed cracks & loosened joins that are now beginning to fail.

  3. Brendan, 28. January 2020, 11:35

    Well said Michael – new dwellings should have a special rate to pay for the extra cost imposed on infrastructure. If people don’t want to pay it there are plenty of zombie towns with spare infrastructure capacity for them to live in.

  4. Harry McNaugh, 28. January 2020, 11:55

    It’s my personal experience that Wellington Water struggle. They struggle (with the Council pretending they are not responsible ) to repair reported water leaks in a timely fashion.

  5. KB, 28. January 2020, 15:37

    @Brendan: New dwellings already pay a large development special fee to account for the additional infrastructure costs.

  6. Brendan, 28. January 2020, 16:52

    @KB – if my rates go up to pay for more reservoirs, bigger sewers, wider roads etc, then the special fee is not enough.

  7. michael, 28. January 2020, 17:33

    When are the councillors going to wake up and accept that this is a council problem and accept responsibility? They are the ones who passed the management to Wellington Water, and they are the ones responsible for providing the city with sustainable infrastructure that doesn’t leak.

    Andy Foster promised that as Mayor he would be “a leader, good listener, be well informed”, be “a reasoned and consistent advocate for our great city”, and that the public “deserve more than sound bites”. So, I ask you Mayor Foster ‘Please tell us what is going on, and what if any plans are in place to remedy the situation?”

  8. Wellington Water, 28. January 2020, 17:59

    We will be sharing weekly updates on the Moa Point situation as works continue. However, we will provide further updates should anything change. [via twitter]

  9. michael, 28. January 2020, 19:33

    Thank you Wellington Water and updates will no doubt be helpful, but the big question to the WCC still remains. What are the plans to sort out the old unsustainable pipes Mr Mayor?

  10. Lindsay, 29. January 2020, 10:13

    The struggle continues – a burst water pipe on Willeston Street.

  11. Dan Tosfery, 29. January 2020, 10:24

    Popping pipes could result from recent earthquake activity. So do less building and more infrastructure reports and get Central Govt to pay for repairs.

  12. Casey, 29. January 2020, 10:32

    If Wellington Water were to make fuller use of their website to explain what the issues are and how they are addressing them, they would win more plaudits from the paying public who would like to know. The odd comment in the media just doesn’t cut it, taking the sewage leak just before Christmas as example. The media have been known to get things wrong. The inference was that a sewer tunnel 22 metres deep in Willis Street near its junction with Dixon had collapsed. Later this was changed to the sewer being 22 metres deep at the top of Dixon. Top of Dixon is 11 metres above Willis, so did they mean the top of McDonald Cres? One early report inferred that Salamanca Road and Ghuznee Street connected one another.

    Some hand drawn additions to existing maps placed on a website is a simple thing to do, and saves thousands of words.

  13. michael, 29. January 2020, 13:46

    Casey, I agree Wellington Water could communicate a lot better but the core problem of replacing the aged infrastructure is not their responsibility. It is the council’s responsibility. So, unless there is a program in place to deal with this issue, Wellington Water are going to get stretched thinner and thinner as more pipes burst.

    Over the past few years we have listened to the WCC going on about the thousands of people who will be moving into the city, and the huge increase in high-rise apartments we will be faced with. Therefore, one would assume that the council should be well into planning to replace our dated infrastructure, as it is clear that this is not coping now and will not cope with a huge increase in demand. So once more I ask the council – what are you going to do? Do you have an appropriate replacement plan in place to start trying to get ahead of the problem and upgrade the pipes and, if so, what is it?

  14. Graham Atkinson, 29. January 2020, 14:29

    What happened to Wellington Water’s commitment to fortnightly update meetings about Willis Street? Nothing on their website and no emails to attendees at the first meeting.

  15. Graham Atkinson, 29. January 2020, 14:32

    Casey as it was explained at the public meeting (supposed to be the first of regular fortnightly updates) the pipes are about 2 metres below the ground at the Willis/Dixon intersection and then head down to link with pipes running below the exit level of the Terrace Tunnel. Remembering that Dixon Street continues on to link with the Terrace it is quite possible that those pipes are 22 metres below that section of Dixon Street.

  16. Lindsay, 30. January 2020, 18:15

    Wellington Water continues to struggle with its communications. As at 5pm today, the news section of its website had not been updated since the 24th. Seven days out of date, when there are two major sewage pipe collapses.

  17. Keith Flinders, 30. January 2020, 19:39

    Before anyone blames Wellington Water for the massive reduction in water spouting from the Carter Fountain in Oriental Bay, I am pleased to advise that it is not due to them. At present the fountain looks as though it is in need of prostate surgery, such is its limited flow rate. It should come right in early March however. The present condition is due to the WCC, and an event planned in a couple of weeks’ time.

  18. michael, 31. January 2020, 9:48

    Shame the council aren’t concerned enough to help with all the problems Wellington Water is facing due to the substandard infrastructure they are being expected to manage for the council.