Water Taskforce seeks transparency on state of water assets

30 May 2020

The Mayoral Taskforce met this week and continues to gather information on the condition of the city’s three-waters network (potable water, wastewater and stormwater).

It is also focusing on critical future priorities; providing for a growing population, ensuring sustainable water supply, meeting increasing receiving water standards and climate-change mitigation and adaptation.

Mayor Andy Foster says: “Nationwide there is a significant need to invest more in the three waters. Wellington reflects this in many ways. We do enjoy high drinking water quality, which is unfortunately is not the case for some parts of New Zealand.

“However we know about 30% of our city pipes are getting towards the end of their lives. We have already signalled the need for significantly increased investment in the Council’s 30-year infrastructure plan published in 2018. The Taskforce’s work will identify whether that level of investment is adequate or not. We also know that we will need to provide higher levels of service and for a larger population.” says Mayor Foster.

“Quite rightly there are increasing expectations for healthy, clean streams, rivers and marine environments. Climate change will impact for example on coastal pipes,” he says.

“Population growth is already putting pressure on three-waters infrastructure in some parts of our city. At a regional level population growth will also increase pressure on water – it is a finite resource and we need to use it more efficiently and sustainably. We also need to make sure we’re not generating excess carbon when pumping water and disposing of sewage.

“Unfortunately all of this will obviously not come cheap. In our region, Hutt and Porirua cities have recently been briefed on what this means for their districts, and Wellington City is now steeling itself for a significant challenge in this area.”

Following a regular update from Wellington Water, and a round-table discussion from all members of the Taskforce, Mayor Foster says there is a clear theme coming through - calling for transparency and openness about the state of our water assets. “For a long time we have skirted around difficult subjects such as water meters and broken pipes, public and private. Fixing the problems will take time and require the Council and private property owners and utilities to play a part. We will all be in this together.

“I am happy to lead an honest public debate about these challenges, and what we are going to do about them. We need to act now for the long term future of our people and the environment. We have already provided increased funding for condition assessment and roving crews.”

Mayor Foster notes Councillors have substantial financial pressures to deal with. “Investing in the three waters is undoubtedly going to be a priority. However there will also be decisions about service levels and priorities even within the three waters and improvements will be progressive. The Taskforce is going to need to give some advice on what the priorities ought to be.”

The Taskforce will meet again on 11 June to consider these priorities. The group aims to present a set of recommendations to City Councillors later this year which will feed into the city’s Long-term Plan for 2021-31 and beyond.