16 Nov 2023

Wellington businesses want clear, early communications on summer water restrictions

11:32 am on 16 November 2023
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Photo: RNZ / Hamish Cardwell

Wellington businesses are waiting on what water restrictions might mean for them this summer.

Wellington Water is currently working with emergency agencies to deal with potentially critically low water levels this summer.

The capital is currently under level 1 water restrictions, meaning households can only use sprinklers every second day.

Due to warmer weather and leaky pipe infrastructure, the water provider is preparing for level 3 restrictions - which would see all outdoor residential use for water banned.

But, it does not yet have a plan for what restrictions might mean for businesses.

A Wellington Water spokesperson said it was working with local councils on how restrictions might apply to businesses.

"Currently, businesses are not subject to specific restrictions, but we do ask them to be pragmatic and responsible with their water use this summer."

The spokesperson said the utility had yet to determine how restrictions may apply to businesses in an emergency response, but it was liaising with respective councils on their individual by-laws.

"We will be better placed to provide an update in the coming weeks."

Rodney Wayne on Manners Street manager Lloyd Saunders said it would be concerning if the hairdressing salon had to cut down its water use.

"We'd just be worried we couldn't meet the needs of our clients.

"Every single service we do comes with a wash and a blow dry - and without that, it might mean we really have to cut the volume of clients we can see or we'll have to adapt the services we do.

"Maybe we'll try and transition to doing more dry cuts but that really does change the nature of the services we can offer."

Saunders said the salon had faced numerous challenges throughout the pandemic.

"We've been hammered for the last couple of years so I think we are quite resilient. We'll figure out a plan - it will suck a bit though for a while we figure it out.

"Businesses like ours - where we are washing and using water all day - I can see some angry hairdressers on the horizon."

Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive Simon Arcus said the city was in a dynamic situation where the potential impacts of a shortage were not yet clear.

"What we need is planning, and we need really good communication. The earlier these businesses get the information they need, the better."

Arcus said it related to how government communicated with businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The earlier we got information about traffic light systems and changes, the better it was for business. Ultimately, its a shock absorber in the economy if it is going to suffer from the reality that water is scarce."

Lower Hutt Mayor and Wellington Water Committee chair Campbell Barry said in levels one to three restrictions would apply only to residential users.

"If we were to get to an unprecedented situation of level 4 restrictions, then we are going to have to work with everyone and that's our business community as well on how we can get through."

Barry said the key priority was residential water use and "finding and fixing the really large leaks we know are out there ... we want to be in a position where we don't go anywhere near level 4."

Karaka Cafe operator Paul Retimanu said water restrictions would pose a challenge for the hospitality sector.

"In hospitality, there's a real risk as a consumer of water through our kitchens and all the back of house areas."

Retimanu said the business community need better messaging from authorities.

"We do need to front-foot this with some good solutions in place of what it could look like and what is the plan, should we go to level 4."

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