Gisborne industries could be waiting around two weeks before they can begin operating again as the desperate state of the city's water situation was hammered home at a meeting held on Wednesday by the district council.
On top of that, it could be up to a year before the city returns to the normal water usage it enjoyed before Cyclone Gabrielle, if at all.
Gisborne District Council last Wednesday asked industry to stop all water use immediately after multiple breaks were identified along the city's water supply pipeline.
Key stakeholders yesterday afternoon gathered at Lawson Field Theatre to receive a much-anticipated update from the council on when they might be able to begin operating again.
Council director community lifelines Dave Wilson told those present that he wanted to manage expectations.
"Those are the dams that sit up the top of Waingake," he began, pointing to a picture of a brown-coloured reservoir on the screen.
"The first problem that we can see straight away is the colour of them. They're supposed to be blue."
Wilson explained that in addition to issues with sediment in the dam, which the council needed to drop significantly, there was also a process to follow with the repair and installation of pipes.
The council had partnered with Gisborne-based Universal Engineering and Eastland Engineering, who were working around the clock constructing bridges to hold a new section of pipe which was expected to arrive from Christchurch last night.
After the pipe went in, a process would need to be followed to ensure it was clean and compliant, Wilson said.
That included washing out the dirty water that had entered the piping system during the cyclone, and holding chlorinated water in the new pipes for a set period of time to meet regulatory requirements.
Wilson said the time frame the council believed it could work to for allowing industry to operate again was two weeks, but that would not be at full supply.
As it stands, the city is depending on the Waipaoa treatment plant for its water supply which was taking "very dirty water" out of the Waipaoa River before treating it.
That plant was capable of processing 540cu/m of water an hour, but the city normally required production of up to 2500 cubic metres an hour around this time of year, Wilson said.
On Tuesday, the city used over 9000cu/m of water.
Council team leader healthy living Judith Robertson was hopeful the city might be able to have a fully reinstated supply of water by next summer, but acknowledged things may never return to the free-for-all before the cyclone hit.
"It doesn't feel like we are in a crisis, but we still are in terms of water."
- Cyclone Gabrielle: Latest on where to get help in Gisborne
- Live Cyclone Gabrielle updates: New weather warnings for flood-hit regions
Robertson requested that those present complete forms detailing their water usage requirements, so that the council could create a "water budget" for industry, allocating water for its production runs.
"We don't have electronic metering on everybody, so we're on a high-trust model here. We need to trust that you're doing the best you can."
Industry stakeholders present at the meeting discussed the creation of a working group as a possible way of circumnavigating restrictions if alternative water sources could be found.
Gisborne residents are being urged to conserve as much water as possible, and are asked to use it only for drinking, short showers, food preparation and washing necessary clothing.
Free untreated water for cleaning can be collected by taking your own containers to Wash'n Go at 156 Carnavon Street from 9am-4pm weekdays and 10am-3pm weekends.
Alerts from the National Emergency Management Agency
- Keep up to date with advice from your local CDEM Group or from civildefence.govt.nz
- Floodwaters may be full of sewage, chemicals and other hazardous materials and should be avoided as much as possible
- Floodwater can carry bacteria that can contaminate food
- Protect yourself when cleaning up flood water and mud by wearing a properly fitted P2- or N95-rated mask, goggles, gloves, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, and gumboots or work shoes
- Throw away all food and drinking water that has come in contact with floodwater
- Do not eat garden produce if the soil has been flooded
- In power outages use torches instead of candles, and only use camp cookers and BBQs outdoors.
- Conserve water where you are advised to
- Check the location of pipes and cables before you dig; see Chorus' Before You Dig website and beforeudig.co.nz for all utilities
- The best way to assist in the response is through financial donations and NOT through donated goods.
Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air