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Residents Plead For Help With Private, Ageing Water Schemes

A small group of volunteers managing water for Marlborough’s coastal Rārangi community has asked its council for help, as the scheme runs dry and has ageing pipes.

The group’s call for help has been echoed by a subdivision on Blenheim’s edge, struggling to keep up with new water regulations.

North Rārangi Water Supply Inc manages the township’s water supply, which is connected to 70 households and a Department of Conservation campground.

Members of the group told the Marlborough District Council at long-term plan hearings on Tuesday their system had unidentified leaks, and had to be switched off multiple times over the summer due to short supply.

Despite raising annual charges to the connected households, now at $650, the group did not have enough money to fix the failures.

Rārangi resident Rowan Lee said they hoped the council would take over the scheme.

“It's a big call. So we understand there's lots of things for you to consider,” Lee said.

If that wasn’t an option, he requested the council provide advice, and increase its water allocation, currently capped at 100m³ per day.

He also wanted funding for a water engineer consultant to create a 10-year strategic plan for their scheme.

“Unfortunately, over 30 years, it's been run as a non-profit scheme,” Lee said.

The scheme, with two wells and three storage tanks, was installed by the developer in 1977, using asbestos cement pressure pipe, which was standard for the time.

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The pipes were near the end of their 50-70-year lifespan, and were understood to be “deteriorating from the inside”.

The former Blenheim Borough Council maintained the scheme until 1997, until it was shifted into community ownership.

Lee said the group was not a council or corporate entity, so it could not get long-term funding or lending from the banks.

It was also possible water regulator Taumata Arowai would soon request the network be chlorinated, as had happened in Blenheim.

He told councillors demand for water had changed over time.

“We're getting families out there now ... previously there was a lot of retired people [who] lived conservatively.

“We constantly update people on where we are with water.

“But you still drive past and see sprinklers going.

“I've actually pulled over and tied up people's sprinklers, and carried on driving.

“It's an ongoing issue but the community is becoming more and more aware."

Sometimes it had been hard to get people to pay their bills, he said.
“So no money has been put aside for maintenance and infrastructure.”

Members of Blenheim’s Dry Hills also asked to be connected to the council’s water scheme on Tuesday, backed by many resident submissions - the second-highest amount per long-term plan issue after the Sounds road recovery.

Former councillor and Dry Hills resident Laressa Shenfield said at the hearing the community needed a long-term solution due to changes in drinking water regulations.

The scheme was thought to have been created in 2002, when the subdivision was built.

All residents were shareholders of the scheme, and Shenfield said they had reserves for upgrades.

“But we really lack that sort of technical skill within our group,” she said.

“We've had meetings with [council’s] assets and services team.

“They've been great in finding the time and talking with us, but have been ambiguous with their answers as to whether they would be able to help us.”

More than 100 people spoke over four days of long-term plan hearings this week, with many community groups seeking funding, while the Sounds road recovery was discussed all day on Thursday.

Deliberations on the long-term plan would take place on June 24, although the mayor had warned there was little wriggle room for funding if they wanted to maintain the current draft rates rise at 12.58%.

That figure did not include Sounds road repairs, which would bring the total to 12.95%.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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