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Water high on the agenda for Hutt City Council

Hutt City Councillors have held initial discussions today about what's been recognised as a national challenge facing local government – funding the renewal of water infrastructure with some estimating the investment required across the country to top $17.2 billion over the next decade.

Water supply and effective wastewater and stormwater systems ensure urban environments function properly. In addition, the ‘three waters’ deliver public health, economic and quality of life benefits for communities. Managing them well has environmental benefits, provides for city growth, ensures there is enough water to go around, and that reservoirs, pipes and pump stations can cope with demand.

During today’s briefing Wellington Water advised Council that community expectations on water are changing, that plans need to be put in place to address the forecast impacts of climate change on our water infrastructure, and that current funding for the three waters infrastructure is inadequate to meet expectations.

“Due to the way New Zealand cities have grown, many have infrastructure that's nearing the end of its useful life, or is simply underperforming. Since that infrastructure was built, people's expectations about what's acceptable, such as allowing wastewater to enter the environment has changed. So has the climate which affects key environmental factors such as rainfall and sea levels,” says Mark Kinvig Group Manager, Network Strategy and Planning at Wellington Water.

Hutt City Council Chief Executive, Jo Miller says the three waters, and the infrastructure needed to look after it properly, is fundamental to a functioning city and the well-being of its residents.

“In Lower Hutt, around 60% of the city's water infrastructure needs to be renewed in the next 30 years. On top of that, the city is expecting population to grow by 10-20% in that time.

“The data and research available to us now demonstrates that comprehensive planning and investment is needed. This is not an issue we can afford to defer. We don’t want to be in the same position as others, where water systems have failed or are failing, putting people and places at risk.”

At the briefing Lower Hutt Mayor Campbell Barry said that council was not afraid of tackling the issues and wants to have early discussions with the community about water. “Lower Hutt is not alone in facing these challenges, they are New Zealand-wide issues, and council is prepared to deal with them.

“The past approach has made the most of the funding available to ensure the asset’s lifespan is extended as much as possible. The information shows we need to do more when it comes to our core infrastructure. We are signalling that a significant investment in underground water infrastructure to improve performance and support growth must be one of our top priorities. Now is the time to plan well for the future and make funding decisions that will give the city the most control over the circumstances it faces, rather than having the circumstance control the city.

“I’m looking forward to discussing the proposal with the community and deciding on our next steps together. I’m confident that they’ll understand the need to invest in our three waters infrastructure.”

Policy and planning are also part of the equation, for example by having the right requirements in place for new builds, such as on-site stormwater storage; reducing water consumption to delay costly investment in new sources; or ensuring private pipes are performing well.

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