Wellington Water Amalgamation Proposal Backed

21 May 2014

A proposed major amalgamation of the Wellington region’s water, stormwater and wastewater operations is a step closer.

Water.

Unanimous endorsement of the proposal for Greater Wellington Regional Council to join Capacity Infrastructure Services (the water company run by four local councils) was given by the Wellington City Council’s Governance, Finance and Planning Committee today. It will be considered by the other councils over the coming weeks.

Wellington’s Acting Mayor, and the committee’s Chair, Justin Lester, describes today’s vote as “a further step towards real regional cooperation – something that will be good for all Wellingtonians”.

“If this proposal is approved, Wellington’s water customers will deal with one entity from source to tap, allowing for significant cost savings over time and better environmental management.

“Most of the water we drink in central Wellington is pumped almost 50 kilometres from Upper Hutt. Wastewater from Churton Park and Tawa is treated at Titahi Bay in Porirua. In other words, local boundaries are relatively meaningless when it comes to water,” says Cr Lester.

Greater Wellington Regional Council is currently responsible for the bulk supply and treatment of water to Upper Hutt, Hutt City, Porirua and Wellington. The councils in the four cities are currently responsible (via Capacity) for the local distribution of the water – and also for dealing with wastewater and stormwater.

Capacity was established in 2003 by the Wellington and Hutt City councils as a means of cutting costs and improving efficiency in the area of water infrastructure. In recent years Porirua and Upper Hutt have also signed up to Capacity as shareholding councils.

Cr Iona Pannett, chair of the Environment Committee that oversees water issues, says that if the proposal for Greater Wellington Regional Council to join Capacity is approved, the organisation would be overseen by a joint oversight committee of elected members – one each from the five participating councils.

“The public should be reassured that water will remain in public hands. The shareholder councils would also continue to retain ownership of their water assets and infrastructure and continue to make funding and policy decisions.

“This proposed amalgamation fits with the Wellington Regional Mayoral Forum's commitment to encouraging more collaboration and shared services between local authorities,” she says.

The meeting also approved a proposal that Capacity be renamed ‘Wellington Public Water Services Ltd’ or similar. Cr Lester says the name ‘Capacity’ has not caught on with the Wellington public. “It’s a vague and confusing title.”

He adds that the proposed new name also sends a strong message to any people concerned that the reorganisation is a step towards the privatisation of water in the region that it is not on the agenda.