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Watercare Reports Steady Progress In First Year Of Flood Recovery

Approaching the one-year mark since the devastating Anniversary Weekend floods struck Tāmaki Makaurau, Watercare acknowledges the ongoing recovery efforts to restore the city's damaged infrastructure.

Watercare’s water and wastewater infrastructure suffered extensive damage during both the flooding and Cyclone Gabrielle last summer.

Watercare asset upgrades and renewals general manager Suzanne Lucas says: “The intensity and volume of the rain in both summer storm events caused a huge number of landslips – some which took out watermains, wastewater pipes and caused issues in our dam catchments.

"Some issues weren’t immediately apparent, with new damage reports coming in for months afterward, totalling more than 200 individual issues.

“A year on, we're still deeply involved in our recovery programme. While 60 of the infrastructure issues have been resolved, 16 repairs are currently ready for execution, and a considerable amount of work remains in the planning, design, and consenting phase, expected to extend through to 2025."

Key achievements to date:

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Lucas emphasises the impact of adverse weather conditions on recovery efforts: "Given 2023 turned out to be Auckland’s wettest year on record, this meant a lot of setbacks as work had to be stopped when the level of rainfall presented a risk to the safety of our crews.

"Access to damaged sites often proved challenging, and we’ve had to get innovative to transport materials and equipment to sites. In Beach Haven, we had to transport equipment for our wastewater pipe repairs by barge, and in our Upper Nihotupu Dam catchments, we used helicopters for some of the machinery. Many of our damaged pipes are in difficult terrain, often necessitating coordination with property owners for access.

“A lot of these people were in incredibly stressful situations, with their own property repairs to deal with, and we’d like to extend a sincere thanks to them for their patience and understanding.

“We’re also really grateful for the support we’ve had from our contractors and operations staff, who prioritised the recovery work so we could minimise the impact on our customers and the environment.”

Ongoing repairs:

  • Work to restore the flood-damaged Pukekohe Water Treatment Plant.
  • A permanent solution for a broken wastewater pipe below the Parnell Rose Gardens.
  • While Muriwai’s Water Treatment Plant is operational, the landslip blocked access to one of the plant’s spring water sources and it couldn’t be safely reinstated. Investigations into potential future water sources for the beachside community are ongoing.

Lucas emphasises Watercare’s ongoing efforts to enhance infrastructure resilience, considering the changing climate and the likelihood of future intense weather events.

“It is important to evaluate ways we can enhance the resilience of our infrastructure. For instance, in areas where landslips broke our wastewater pipes, we are building retaining walls to minimise the likelihood of a recurrence. We’re also strategically considering the placement of critical components like electrical cables and controls to mitigate their vulnerability to severe flooding."

The estimated cost of Watercare’s flood recovery programme is approximately $100 million, with more than $20 million already spent and an expected expenditure of about $80 million in the next two years.

Lucas acknowledges the financial challenges posed by the flood recovery work. “We were already spending more than $1 billion this financial year – our biggest annual infrastructure investment to date – and of course the flood recovery work was unforeseen and unbudgeted. This work couldn’t wait so we’ve reprioritised our infrastructure delivery programme to enable it.”

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