Meeting focuses on water improvements

19 February 2020

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster says today’s meeting with senior representatives from Wellington Water was constructive and focussed on solutions to the problems that have recently beset the city’s water infrastructure.

“There was full disclosure of the issues and some free and frank discussion on the way forward.

“Wellington Water tabled a number of proposals to address the issues and many of those seem, at first glance, to have merit. For example, they acknowledged not having a complete understanding of the state of the water network and proposed an enhanced programme of condition assessment.

“Many of the ideas proposed would require additional funding if agreed, which the Council would need to consider carefully. The Council already invests around $180 million per year (averaged over 10 years) on the three waters, and that figure is scheduled to increase in coming years. So our first obligation to ratepayers is to ensure that money’s being efficiently spent, a point that Wellington Water acknowledged.”

Wellington Water also stressed that it was not simply a matter of past underfunding – but that community expectations in terms of preventing pollution and keeping our streams, harbour and coastal waters clean have risen massively in recent decades.

“What was acceptable in, say, the 1950s, 60s and 70s is not acceptable now – the community is much more concerned about the quality of water going into our streams and the harbour. And water conservation is clearly a major concern for us all now.”

Mayor Foster says many of these issues arise out of decisions made decades ago and potentially the plan is very long term as well.

“Wellington Water has undertaken to provide advice for the City Council’s next Annual Plan and 2021/31 Long-term Plan - in terms of recommended spending on infrastructure – including costings on establishing a ‘no spills’ wastewater network.”

Wellington Water also agreed that it can do better in terms of informing the community about faults, leaks and other issues.

“We all acknowledge that Wellington Water is under pressure at the moment, particularly in terms of the works in Wallace Street and Willis Street and dealing with other incidents across the region – not just in Wellington City.

“We’ll also aim to make arrangements with Greater Wellington Regional Council, Regional Public Health, local iwi and other interested parties to improve lines of accountability, responsibility and communication.”

For its part, Wellington City Council will need to consider how to fund any additional work that is agreed in a way that is sustainable.