Omāroro reservoir gets green light

4 June 2020

Mayor Andy Foster and City Councillors have today unanimously approved the funding of the massive Omāroro water reservoir to serve central Wellington, the regional hospital and the Newtown area.

Artist impression of Omāroro Reservoir completed project

Artist impression of the completed project

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Wellington City Council’s Strategy and Policy Committee debated the proposal today in light of changes in project scope and increases in estimated costs over more than a decade. The reservoir and associated infrastructure is now expected to cost $68 million. Construction is due to start in August this year.

Mayor Foster says the cost to the Council of the project has risen for a number of reasons. “The scope has grown. This is now wholly a City Council project rather than one shared with the District Health Board, and the reservoir itself is bigger, will be fully undergrounded, and has had to be redesigned to take into account ever-tougher quake-resilience requirements.”

  In the meeting Mayor Foster called on the Government to “come to the party” with a significant contribution for the reservoir from its post-pandemic ‘shovel-ready’ infrastructure fund.

Omāroro will be a huge 35 million-litre reservoir to be built on a hillside above Prince of Wales Park, Mt Cook, on Town Belt land. The concrete tank will be built below ground-level and then buried, once completed, to preserve the landscape.

Today’s resolution to approve the funding was moved by Councillor Sean Rush, the Council’s Infrastructure portfolio leader, and seconded by Councillor Iona Pannett.

Cr Rush said Omāroro is a critical infrastructure project – designed to ensure the central city and surrounding inner city suburbs have a water supply especially after a major earthquake. He noted that a break in a main bringing water to the city from the Hutt Valley in 2017 left the city only hours away from being completely without water supply.

“While pipes and reservoirs are generally buried and out of sight, in New Zealand we are beginning to understand the implications of not paying attention to this kind of infrastructure. There are many examples in New Zealand and around the world where failure to invest in pipes and reservoirs has caused social, reputational, environmental and economic damage.

“Most importantly, without the reservoir the city’s growth will be constrained.”

The committee agreed the Council’s ‘three waters’ Annual Plan capex budget be maintained at current levels by delaying the proposed replacement of the Moe-i-te-Rā - Bell Road reservoir a short distance away from Omāroro.

Tonia Haskell, acting Chief Executive of Wellington Water, says: “Today’s committee decision represents the culmination of a lot of hard work by many people within Wellington Water and the Council, and among our team of engineering consultants.

“The project to design and install pipework to connect the reservoir to the existing network has gone well, and we’re now looking forward to getting under way on this critical part of the city’s water infrastructure.

“We’ll be in a position to announce shortly who the successful tenderer to build the reservoir is, and one of their first jobs will be to establish links with the community to ensure they’re kept informed about the work programme.”

Mayor Foster adds that an important project issue relates to the need to truck hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of rock and spoil away from the reservoir site as the big hole is dug in the hillside to accommodate the reservoir.

“Councillors have already indicated they know of a couple of playing fields around the city that need new fill to end waterlogging in winter – however we’d be interested to hear from land owners or developers who are needing large amounts of fill because it’ll mean we can save money by avoiding tip fees.”