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Council explains rural water policy

Council explains rural water policy

The owners of North Shore properties listed as falling outside the city's Metropolitan Urban Limit (MUL) will soon be asked if they are interested in receiving and paying for water network services not currently available to them. The consultation is part of the council's water assessment, requirement under the new Resource Management Act (RMA 2002) to ensure water supply, wastewater and stormwater services meet public health and environmental standards.

Jan Heijs, Water Services Infrastructure Planning Manager, says the recently completed water assessment focuses on whether the council caters for existing and future needs. The assessment also included an assessment looking at risks to health and the environment in both reticulated and non-reticulated (mainly rural) areas.

"The external assessment shows that the council is catering well for its current and future needs, and that plans and programmes are already in place to improve any services that aren't up to scratch, for example, Project Care - the council's 20-year plan to reduce wet weather wastewater overflow events through network repair and replacement," he said. " However, some increased health risks have been identified in areas that are not connected to a reticulated water supply or wastewater network, generally located outside the MUL. The risks are related to on-site systems such as tank water for drinking water use or septic tank systems with local on-site disposal. Generally these risks can be reduced with proper maintenance and design".

Over and above the initiatives and projects already underway, the water assessment has highlighted the need to confirm a service policy for rural areas that are not currently connected to reticulated supplies.

About 1000 properties in North Shore City are not currently connected to a reticulated water system, wastewater system or both. The majority of these properties lie within Paremoremo (not including water services within Paremoremo Village which are privately owned and operated), Albany North and Okura.

"In the past some rural property owners have asked to be connected to the council water network, but our policy has been not to provide water supply reticulation into rural areas outside the urban limits," says Mr Heijs. "The council's 'no sewer - no water' policy also prevents connection to a water supply system where the property is not connected to a reticulated wastewater system.

"The council will not initiate plans to reticulate any areas outside the urban limit. However the community can request to be serviced. A good example is Okura Village where there might be a potential to provide water supply if there is enough interest. Okura Village is serviced by a wastewater system, and connection to the city's water supply system will provide residents with a higher quality and more reliable supply. A policy is being prepared outlining when council is prepared to service properties in the rural areas. Part of this policy will be a requirement that these systems should be fully funded by property owners."

"Upfront costs for rural water reticulation can be very high," says Mr Heijs. "Our early estimates show a reticulated service would cost about $1.5 million, or $10,000 per connection. This cost could rise to more than $25,000 per connection in other rural areas, depending on proximity to existing reticulated areas."

It's the council's intention to provide water services to properties within urban limits that currently miss out such as Greenhithe, Albany and Long Bay, as further development occurs in these areas, in accordance with the City Plans.

Another initiative following the assessment is a more pro-active education and mentoring approach to improve private management of on-site systems such as rain tanks and septic tanks.

Mr Heijs says the council will also be looking more closely at the security of the city's water supply in the case of a prolonged interruption of the bulk water supply to North Shore City.

Over the following months council staff will be contacting ratepayers with properties outside the Metropolitan Urban Limit (MUL) to gauge interest in becoming connected to potential water service networks and to discuss how better to maintain tank water and on-site sewage disposal systems to minimise risks to health and the environment.

A final Water Services Assessment Report will be prepared for adoption by the council's Infrastructure and Environment Committee in June 2005. This includes feedback gathered during consultation with the community. Any significant changes in required budgets, levels of service or asset management in general will then be prepared for consideration in the 2006/16 City Plan.


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