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Long road ahead for leaky infrastructure

A leaking fire hydrant in Featherston producing an impressive stream of water has one resident hoping repairs to South Wairarapa’s extensive water leaks will be escalated amid the district’s tightening water restrictions.

South Wairarapa residents moved to level two water restrictions last week, which stipulates that residents are expected to stop using sprinklers, soaker hoses, and irrigation systems.

According to Wellington Water acting chief executive Susannah Cullen, the district has 103 leaks in its public water network that wasted about 46 per cent of the water supplied in the past financial year.

Featherston resident Ken Stokes told the Times-Age he had notified South Wairarapa District Council about one of these leaks – a fire hydrant on Revans St – in early December.

Stokes said that this week it was still leaking water.

“Because it’s on the hill we can see it flowing all the way down like a stream,” Stokes said.

“As we go into a drought our farmers are concerned about, these leaks are really wasteful.

“It’s a major issue thatrequires heavy lifting and we need to make a start on it.”

Noting the new water restrictions in place, Stokes said he and many others are concerned about how repairs of this scale will be facilitated, considering the council’s financial situation.

“If this amount is visible, how much can’t we see?” Stokes asked.

“It’s not only water leaking on top which you can see, it’s also under the surface.”

Stokes said that when he notified SWDC about this particular leak, he was advised that there were already reports logged in the system for repairs.

Following questions from the Times Age on Monday, a spokesperson for SWDC said that they were aware of the Revans St leak, and that a service delivery team from Wellington Water were on their way to fix it yesterday afternoon.

“We understand and appreciate that while leaks can be visible, many outstanding leaks throughout the drinking water network are low priority, with the high priority jobs being addressed first and in a timely manner.”

Leaks are prioritised by Wellington Water by their levels of risk to property and public safety, amount of water being lost, and loss of pressure.

The SWDC spokesperson said there are currently 66 known drinking water leaks across the district.

“Wellington Water balances out the workload of their teams, so during summer the non-urgent backlog builds and is usually cleared over the winter months as water demand and supply is more stable.”

The spokesperson acknowledged that it is a serious issue both within the district and nationwide, stemming from aged and damaged infrastructure.

Noting the recent investment in the Waiohine Treated Water Reservoir – which has provided an extra two days of water storage for Greytown and Featherston – the spokesperson said SWDC is working with Wellington Water to address the district’s infrastructure, albeit “within the boundaries of what is affordable for our small ratepayer base”.

“During periods of increased water demand and lower supply due to consistent dry weather, it’s important that as a council and community we all do our part to conserve this finite resource, in an effort to avoid further water restrictions down the line.”


  1. Maybe some new cycle ways 🤔 or a holiday park 🤔 more EV vehicles and charging stations 🚉 🤔. How about being the first council to fix water 💧 problems 🤔. Your choice 🤔.

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Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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