17 Jan 2017

Mangawhai dry: Water may be trucked in

6:32 pm on 17 January 2017

The Mayor of Kaipara says water tankers could be brought in to ease Mangawhai's water shortage.

Residents in the Northland town are struggling to fill their water tanks because of dry weather. Some are so desperate they are dipping into reserves supposed to be kept for fighting fires, worrying the Fire Service.

no caption

Photo: 123RF

Water suppliers said they were getting more than a hundred calls a day from people who had run out.

Mayor Greg Gent told Summer Report the situation was so serious they were talking to Fonterra about possibly using its tankers to bring water to the town.

"That water would come from Whangarei, and obviously at much larger volume.

"But tankers have got to be able to get into the filling station ... that's being checked out."

Mr Gent said the dry weather started earlier than usual this year.

Police have received one report of alleged water theft from a property in the town, but said they were not aware of any ongoing trend in this type of crime.

Enquiries were being made into the incident.

Fires expected before next rainfall

The two main water sources for the town are the Auckland Council Watercare filling station at Wellsford and a privately-run bore in Mangawhai.

New builds in Mangawhai are required to hold 10,000 litres of water for the Fire Service - although the bylaw is in the process of being repealed.

One resident using reserve water said they knew at least four others doing the same.

Whangarei and Kaipara area commander Brad Mosby said the Fire Service needed an assurance properties with fire holding tanks would meet their obligations.

Mr Mosby said fire trucks carried only a certain amount of water, but the Mangawhai station had a tanker available.

He expected some fires in the area before the next rainfall.

Mr Gent said the water shortage was serious in other Northland towns too.

Residents ration water

Mangawhai resident Natasha Lee said her family was rationing supplies.

"We're probably looking at today, or tomorrow, we'll run out.

"We're just having to conserve the water, so there's minimal showers, minimal flushing of toilets, buckets in the shower before when the water heats up and washing the vegetables in bowls rather than just running the tap."

Another resident told RNZ they were transferring water from their fire reserve to their personal water tank supply and knew at least four others who were doing the same.

Mangawhai Hire owner Shaun Cameron said there had been huge demand for his portable pumps over the past week.

He said people were hiring them for a couple of hours to get water from family and friends and people with a bore.

"We've got about two or three pumps going out three or four times every day ... just because everyone's so short on water at the moment.

"I haven't seen anything like this before."

Ben Gardner, an owner of Mangawhai water supplier The Water Boy, said he had tried to dig two new bores this summer to keep up with demand, but without success.

"I've gone through three bore pumps in a week just try and keep people happy.

"For the last 10 years ... 12 years I've been doing it, it's never been about the money or anything, it's always about keeping people happy and doing a good service and now I can't even do that."

Mr Gardner's partner, Hannah, said she had been getting 100 calls a day.

Mr Gent said taking water from fire reserves was "not ideal", but people "will do what they'll do when they're desperate for water, as they are."

The council was already looking at changing its bylaws on water reserves, and many properties did not have one anyway, he said.

The owner of the local laundromat, John Fredrickson, said business was booming with three or four people waiting at a time for one of the five machines.

He was even looking into bringing in more machines to meet demand.

He would lose thousands of dollars on a rental property at Mangawhai because of the water shortage.

"I rely on rentals each year on that holiday home to keep it going.

"We've had to basically cancel all the bookings we had, which took us from now through to half of February.

"We've had to cancel everything because we can't get water.

Northern Regional Council civil defence manager Graeme MacDonald said it was monitoring the situation.