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Council agrees to $325K repair bill of water pipe


The repair of Featherston’s troubled water pipe crossing the Tauherenikau River has been priced at $325,000, contingency inclusive.

South Wairarapa councillors signed off on the spending last week.

They have also given approval for the council to spend up to $50,000 to identify options for a permanent solution of replacing the pipeline.

Earlier this year, a council report said the pipe was exposed and leaking in the Tauherenikau riverbed and it was now categorised as having a high risk of failing in a severe weather event.

If short-term repair and strengthening works were not done in time and the pipe failed, Featherston residents would be without water, and South Wairarapa ratepayers could foot a bill of from $850,000 to $6.5 million for an emergency contingency plan to truck water in, depending on the nature and length of the outage and river conditions.

At last week’s full council meeting, councillor Alistair Plimmer asked whether water services company Wellington Water had checked for further pipe degradation after this month’s extreme weather event which caused the Tauherenikau River to swell.

A Wellington Water representative said at that stage they had been unable to check the pipe thoroughly but they were able to see that the pipe was still “intact”. They said WW was keen to “get the work done”.

It would take from eight to 12 weeks to fix the leaking pipe.

South Wairarapa District Council chief financial officer Katrina Neems said because work would be carried out “under urgency”, the costs would fall under the current financial year.

“We have not budgeted for this, as you will no doubt be aware,” she said.

“It will either need to be funded through existing budgets which are very tight, or the reality is it will inevitably be an overspend at the end of the financial year which will come out of our equity.”

Councillors were also asked to delegate to the chief executive the authority to activate a contingency plan that would cost $100k a day, in the event that the pipe failed.

The plan focuses on transporting water from Greytown to Featherston to maintain supply.

It would also require a Boil Water Notice to be issued for all properties connected to the Featherston supply and for drinking water to be supplied using static water tankers stationed at strategic locations around the town.

Water mains would also be filled.

Councillor Brenda West objected to signing off on this contingency plan, stating there was no cost breakdown to show what $100k would be spent on per day.

“I am really reluctant to approve a contingency plan that will cost $100k a day and I don’t have any goodies for it.

“I don’t have any evidence on what the money is going to be spent on.

“I can’t go back to my community and say we’re in an emergency plan and it will cost you $100k a day, how do you feel about it?”

Mayor Alex Beijen said providing water to Featherston people under urgency was an obligation of the council – “it’s not about asking people how they feel about it”.

Councillor Garrick Emms said he was “somewhat sympathetic” to West’s position.

He said the council hadn’t paid anything near that amount to supply drinking water to Martinborough during its E.coli water crisis in 2019.

Neems noted that at this time, Martinborough still had running water, it was just unsuitable for drinking.

If the pipe failed in Featherston, there would be no water supply at all.

“I cannot believe there is no other alternative,” Emms said.

“This is an open-ended cheque saying the contingency plan is the one on the table.

“I think we should leave the door open. There may be other options out there we should be considering.”

Councillor Plimmer said he was not sure why the council was being asked to delegate the authority to the chief executive to enact the plan when the CEO had a statutory obligation anyway to ensure Featherston people had water access.

After a lengthy discussion, councillors ended up removing the recommendation, and added another that requested a more complete outline of a contingency plan and costs from Wellington Water, should the pipeline fail.

Councillors also voted that any additional costs to repair the pipeline above the approved amount of $325,000, must come back to an extraordinary council meeting for approval. — NZLDR

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