14 Feb 2020

Council hires Fonterra milk tankers to get water to dry properties

From Checkpoint, 5:44 pm on 14 February 2020

Auckland Council is looking at using Fonterra's milk tankers to try and get water to thousands of households whose tanks are running dangerously low.

The region is on track to reach 40 consecutive days without rain this weekend. For properties which are not connected to the main water supply, the situation is getting dire.

Water tankers are working overtime to get top-ups to as many people as possible, but there are still weeks-long waits, with no rain in sight.

"Our plants, they're just dead because we just can't afford to water them," Whangaparāoa resident Marie Scheffer told Checkpoint.

The family can barely wash, clean or cook at home because of the lack of water, so they are existing on supermarket-bought bottles of water, and visiting grandparents most days.

"It's quite a bit of stress having to sit there and ration water… Even in other summers where we've run out or come close to running out, the wait time certainly hasn't been that long, and the whole stress having to be extra careful because there's just nothing. It doesn't even get humid."

Auckland is set to break a record for the city's longest dry spell this weekend - if it doesn't rain before Sunday it will mark 40 consecutive dry days.

The dry spell is taking its toll on thousands of tank water households across the region.

It is a dire situation, Whangaparāoa Councillor Wayne Walker told Checkpoint.

He said council facilities are available for people to fill up containers and shower at, while they wait for deliveries.

"Normally you can get a water tanker at relatively short notice, but in a situation where you've got big demand like this, there are only so many water tankers.

"I'll be getting a hose over from a neighbour and getting a top up. That's great, and fortunately, there are a lot of people in that situation. The critical message to get across is be good to your neighbours."

Tanker driver Rob says he has been in the business for 13 years but has never seen it this busy.

"Today I've got 16 [tank fills]… Further up north they're just crying for it. You can't get tankers. It's pretty dire. You've got people who can't water their stock and things like that, it's getting real bad."

Auckland Council is now working with Fonterra to use the dairy co-op's tankers to get water out to those in need, particularly in rural areas like Wellsford.

In Whangaparāoa, Maria Scheffer is still praying for rain.