Wellington Scoop

What’s luck got to do with it?


by Lindsay Shelton
Andy Foster should be reconsidering his comment that the two major collapses of Wellington sewage pipelines were “bad luck” – since then, there’ve been five (Feb 15: now eight) more reports of pipeline problems. How much bad luck can the city afford?

The mayor’s “appallingly bad luck” comment was reported by the NZ Herald on January 25.

Since then:

January 27: Emergency waterworks on corner of Hargreaves and Wallace Street
January 31: Burst watermain on Tasman Street
February 3: Pollution returns to Owhiro Bay, two days after it was “safe”
February 3: Repairs to wastewater pipes under Abel Smith, Cuba and Vivian Streets
February 8: Burst water main on Owhiro Road
February 12: Burst water main in Severn Street, Island Bay, cuts supply to 70 homes, two nights in a row.

There’s also the continuing pollution in the harbour around the Taranaki Wharf dive platform – Wellington Water has given no information on this since January 10.

But it has admitted that it doesn’t yet know how to fix the two broken sewage pipes in the tunnel under Mt Albert. Instruments will be sent into the tunnel to locate the defect, which is estimated to be 200m inside. “Once we’ve located that we can work out whether we can fix it by using the pipes themselves, sort of like putting a stent in you arteries in your body, or do we have to empty the tunnel and get in there and do a bigger fix,” says the boss of Wellington Water, no doubt hoping that the tunnel won’t have to be emptied.

Meanwhile – poo trucks continue to carry the sludge from the treatment plant to the southern landfill, 24 hours a day. Have you smelt them as they drive past?

The Herald’s Georgina Campbell has provided statistics about the pipes:

A third of Wellington’s wastewater pipes are either in poor or very poor condition, making them in the worst state of the largest centres across the country.

Andy Foster says Wellington spends about $180 million a year on infrastructure. “According to our asset management plan that’s about the right number. But it will be rising over a period of time and as pipes begin to age.”

Nevertheless, he has asked some “extra questions” of Wellington Water, because of the recent spate of collapses. “Out of these different incidents there are some extra questions that we’ve asked Wellington Water, some things that we might learn from them,” he told the DomPost.

I’ve asked him to tell us the questions that he has asked. And then to release the answers, when Wellington Water provides them.

And more, on the 14th….

And more on the 15th …

Hutt and Wellington: two different approaches to sewage


  1. KB, 11. February 2020, 9:53

    We had several large earthquakes over the last decade. I can’t believe it’s a surprise that there was a lot of horizontal infrastructure damage that will eventually be revealed as cracked pipes eventually collapse. It’s one of the most obvious easy to predict outcomes ever.

  2. Ruz, 11. February 2020, 16:24

    Our underground pipeline network really matters and needs to be upgraded and earthquake proofed.

  3. michael, 12. February 2020, 8:52

    I just wish Andy Foster would admit we are facing a major infrastructure problem, something the Mayor of Hutt City has not been afraid to address.

  4. Stuff, 12. February 2020, 18:54

    On Monday, Wellington Water sent three separate statements to Stuff about the safety of swimming in the Whairepo lagoon.
    The first said the water was safe to swim in and remaining signs had been left up by mistake.
    The second said the water was not safe to swim in due to contamination, unrelated to December 20, and the remaining signage had been left up on purpose.
    By Monday afternoon, a third statement came through the water was safe to swim in and it was decided to remove signage on January 23. “It appears some signage has been left behind, but these are being removed today (Monday) also.”

  5. michael, 13. February 2020, 16:20

    If alarm bells are not ringing in the WCC by now, then we have little chance of expecting anything to happen. Maybe the new $200 million convention centre could be used as a sewage holding tank?