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Council, WW reconnect

A review into the abrupt suspension of water connections in Martinborough has made a raft of recommendations to avoid the problem happening again.

In May, wastewater connections were put on hold due to the region’s noncompliant wastewater system.

A joint review of the problem by South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] and Wellington Water [WW] found a number of issues, including poor communication.

The recommendations include improving the council’s “incomplete and inefficient” record keeping and having the two organisations meet to improve their understanding of the challenges.

The review was accepted on Wednesday by the council’s infrastructure and services committee [ISC], which had initiated the review.

SWDC general manager of partnerships and operations Stefan Corbett described the review as “thorough”.

“Both organisations looked hard at themselves. We believe the recommendations will result in the kind of risk not occurring again in the way that it did,” Corbett said.

“We have already begun the implementation of the recommendations.”.

Recommendations include:

Wellington Water will review historic communications to ensure risks to SWDC’s long term plan posed by key water services are identified. Previous communication have to be clearly referenced so new staff and officials are made aware of issues.

SWDC will review its risk register to ensure key water service risks are included in the register.

SWDC and Wellington Water will review the connection process to ensure the capacity of water service infrastructure is considered.

The two organisations agree to meet to increase their understanding of the perspective and challenges each faced.

The report also notes corporate knowledge about council water infrastructure is held by Wellington Water, and it will be important for that organisation to take part in various council planning processes.

Also noted is the amount of documentation received by the council, and how it is managed.

“A significant number of reports from Wellington Water are received by SWDC at various levels of the organisation,” it said.

“It would be useful to review all the correspondence and ensure it is unambiguous, of value, and is directed to the appropriate SWDC recipients.

“SWDC systems of record are incomplete and inefficient, which means that corporate knowledge is not well retained.

“To aid finding and organising our information, we need to have a clear and common understanding of what we have and where it is.”

An information management project within SWDC is already underway, led by the lead advisor of information management.

The meeting discussed whether extra council resourcing would help in addressing the issues, with a Wellington Water representative acknowledging a “disconnect”.

“We are working to do whatever we can to resolve that disconnect,” they said.

Wellington Water has a range of interactions with council staff at different levels, but not necessarily one specifically designated as a key contact point.

There was discussion around whether long-term planning needs to include a relevant dedicated resource for this purpose, although it was acknowledged there is, at present, election-related uncertainty about water reform.

The meeting also heard that progress on working towards a compliant treatment plant has been made.

“We are pleased to see the ‘Cease’ abatement notices lifted and replaced with ‘To do’ abatement notices – this is important progress.” – NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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