Wellington Water say expectations partly to blame for problems

5:38 pm on 19 February 2020

Wellington Water have told the Mayor the city's water problems aren't simply due to underfunding, but increased expectations from the community on water quality.

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

City council members held an urgent meeting with Wellington Water behind closed doors to address spiralling wastewater pipe failures plaguing the city.

Andy Foster said the meeting provided an opportunity to have free and frank discussion - gathering information to plan a way forward.

He said there was full disclosure from Wellington Water, who tabled a few ideas to address the ongoing issues.

"Many of the ideas proposed would require additional funding if agreed, which Council would need to consider carefully.

"Council already invests around $180 million per year (averaged over 10 years) on the three waters, and that figure is scheduled to increase in coming years," he said.

In the meeting, Foster said, Wellington Water stressed it was not simply a matter of past underfunding, but that community expectations around pollution prevention and the quality of waterways has risen in the past decades.

"What was acceptable in, say, the 1950s, 60s and 70s is not acceptable now - the community is much more concerned about the quality of water going into our streams and the harbour. And water conservation is clearly a major concern for us all now."

But there was no quick fix.

"There is no decisions yet, but obviously this will feed into some discussions about this year's annual plan, and then we've got the long term plan which is next year and the asset management plan.

"These are 100-year assets, and that's not something you give the answers to in five seconds flat."

He said many of the issues had arisen out of decisions made decades ago, but the plan to rectify them was likely to be long term.

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