Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Water needs our attention

The change in 3 Waters to Local Water Done Well has meant changes to Tararua District Council’s long-term planning, but also allowed us to prepare extensive data on the condition of all our water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure.

The 3 Waters Assets Masterplan shows $177 million needs to be spent, with much of it needed in the first few years, which challenges our ability to deliver and pay for it, with 87.2 kilometres of pipe renewal required. Council is having to cut this because it is unaffordable and would significantly increase debt.

I recently met with TVNZ reporter John Campbell and Horizons Regional Council to discuss some of the challenges for rural New Zealand, including paying for large infrastructure with a small ratepayer base. Having seven water and wastewater systems gives the Tararua District 39 water and wastewater consents and another 25 landfill consents with more than 4000 conditions, all of which need to be met and monitored.

These are our responsibilities and require regular testing and management. We have recently received an abatement notice from Horizons for an error in this area, which I suspect is the result of stretching our waters staffing resources. The error will be addressed and our systems will be reviewed.

The world of regulation and compliance has changed dramatically, with a hefty price tag.

We have a total of 6.5kms of earthenware pipes with an average age of 89 years which should all be replaced in year one of the Long Term Plan at a cost of $6.7 million, but this work has been spread over six years.

In our initial draft Long Term Plan, 48 per cent of the capital projects are in the 3 Waters space. Replacing our ageing pipe network in both water and waste needs to be budgeted and planned. We have looked at the highest priority being safety and compliance with our water, compliance with our wastewater and a plan for the stormwater network. Many of these networks’ pipes are more than 60 years old with a hefty price tag to replace.

All this work cannot be carried out at once, and extensive work has been undertaken to create a plan for the Tararua District. Our current ratepayer base of 10,346 cannot afford this plan of work, which needs to be carried out, and the real pressure on our headroom is in Year 5 of the Long Term Plan. Key challenges include the percentage of water loss from the council’s reticulation networks, which is high in Dannevirke and moderate in Pahiatua and Eketāhuna.

The uncertainty of the Dannevirke Impounded Supply adds further pressure, and right now, it is very difficult to receive conclusive information and answers from the experts on the way forward. Meanwhile, the supply remains stable and constantly monitored.

The funding model for this infrastructure, and in many ways for Local Government, is broken and needs to be addressed. The council largely has only one source of funding – rates. Affordability is an issue for the compliance projects for wastewater and the repair of the Dannevirke Impounded Supply.

Conversations around funding and working together with our neighbouring councils using Local Water Done Well have commenced to identify a different funding and delivery model to increase our scale while keeping our local voice and local teams.

We have opted to continue with the Long Term Plan process versus using the temporary legislation option of a delayed Long Term Plan with an enhanced One Year Plan to gain further information. Councillors and staff are working incredibly hard considering the priorities for the district and bringing these options to our ratepayers.

Wishing you and your families a happy Easter.


  1. Get rid of all this Red tape and get back to commonsense? Our predecessors built 💪 what we are still using thank God 😊 🙏 they did it. Come on start building for the future 💪 get rid of all this Red tape stop this nanny state thinking 🤔 or shall we live in the stone age again COME ON THINK ABOUT IT. 🤔

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Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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