Council to investigate Wellington Water's process for looking into leaky pipes after landslip

12:44 pm on 15 March 2023
Contractors deal with slip at Point Howard in Lower Hutt.

Contractors dealing with the slip at Point Howard in Lower Hutt on Tuesday. Photo: RNZ

It is likely that a broken pipe caused or significantly added to a slip which took out utilities in the Lower Hutt suburb of Point Howard, Lower Hutt Mayor Campbell Barry says.

Residents, some who were forced out of their homes by the landslide, said they had been warning the council about the leaking pipe for months.

Hutt City Council said whether residents will be able to get their vehicles past the slip site should be decided this afternoon.

Barry said geotechnical assessments have now been completed and they were waiting for results on the safety of the road for residents to be able to drive on it again.

The slip ruptured a gas line and cut power for a time - and 165 homes were still without water on Wednesday morning.

Parts of Nikau and Howard Road remain closed.

Road closed in Hutt Valley during landslip disruption

Photo: RNZ / Krystal Gibbens

Wellington Water said its crews were assessing what repair work was needed and expected to be able to restore water to the most affected residents once it had site access.

The wastewater system has not been affected, so water collected from the tankers stationed in the area could be used to refill toilet cisterns, Wellington Water said.

Residents who needed to collect their pets could use walking routes to collect them.

Hutt City Council head of transport Jon Kingsbury said the council was working on a plan to bring out cars trapped behind the slip.

Geotechnical engineers have assessed the stability of the road today, and Kingsbury said they hope to bring the cars down by this weekend. At this stage, he said it would be "most likely Friday afternoon".

Kingsbury said they were looking to reconnect water to as many houses as possible by this evening.

But he warned it might not be all households.

He said a boil water notice remained in place for residents for at least the next three days "just to be safe".

Barry, who is also chairperson of Wellington Water, said they were working through "who knew what when" but their current focus was on the response to the slip and restoring the water.

Lower Hutt mayor Campbell Barry

Campbell Barry Photo: RNZ / Meriana Jonsen

"It appears likely the broken pipe has caused or at the very least significantly contributed to the slip."

Council would be looking in to Wellington Water's processes for prioritising leaky pipe fixes and has asked for a range of information, he said.

"When were complaints lodged, what were the actions taken, what were the assessments made from those who were on site initially and we'll be getting that information over the coming days and we'll be able to report that back."

All the information would be released once it was available, he said.

There was an issue with water leaks across the entire region and it was a matter of prioritisation, he said.

"Not just the amount of water that is potentially coming from a leak but the topography of the land and any risk to services or issues like slips and that's something we'll be looking into further around Wellington Water's processes to get that reassurance that those things are factored in to actually prioritising the jobs."

"There are currently water tanks in place and pedestrian access on the road but currently vehicles are still unable to get through," Barry told RNZ earlier today.

Water tanker in Hutt Valley after landslip causes major disruption

One of the water tankers providing supplies to residents. Photo: RNZ / Krystal Gibbens

Hutt City Council said there were two water tanks and 12 portaloos in place.

'You could would undermine the bank' - resident

Point Howard resident Heather Armishaw was fuming after the landslip saying she reported a leaking pipe to Wellington Water several times but nothing was done.

Wellington Water declined an interview on Morning Report saying to check their social media for updates.

Armishaw told Morning Report they first noticed the issue when water began to flow down a stormwater channel at the bottom of their property just before Christmas.

They traced it to where it was coming out just below the road down a steep bank, she said.

"The flow increased steadily over January and February and the last time we measured it, it was about 130 litres a minute which is an Olympic sized swimming pool in 11 to 12 days."

Hutt City Council passed the complaint onto Wellington Water which visited the area several times, Armishaw said.

Eleven days ago they discovered that some of the bank below the road had slipped, and her neighbour warned the council if something was not done, it would undermine the road and cut services, she said.

"At this stage one of our neighbours, who is a retired civil engineer, he called the council and advised them if something wasn't done very soon more of the bank would slip and the road could be undermined with the loss of services - and that's exactly what happened on Monday night."

The slip was not weather related, she said.

"We've been watching the water coming out of this bank and you could see that it if there was much more of it it would undermine the bank and that's exactly what happened."

Point Howard resident Stephen, who lived near the slip which knocked out utilities yesterday, said his neighbours had a worsening leak in that same spot for nearly a year.

He said they had been complaining to Wellington Water about it for nearly as long.

Wellington Water, he said, had patched the leak some months back, but his neighbours had advised them it was still leaking.

Stephen said it was not the only leak that was presenting an issue.

Another leak down the road that had been patched by Wellington Water had recently been tarsealed over and water was coming out of that leak too, he said.

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