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Business wants Wellington water fix

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 22/01/2017

Wellington's business community says central government may need to become involved in fixing the capital city's water supply after a major disruption was averted.

"We came close to losing water for everything but essential services, and that would have been disastrous, causing huge disruption in the CBD and likely forcing most of it to be closed down," says John Milford, chief executive of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce.

Wellington Water staff and contractors worked all night Friday to find and repair a leak affecting the main supply pipe to Wellington City.

They say the leak was related to November's 7.8 quake and a four metre deep hole under the road next to the Wellington Railway Station.was discovered around it.

"There's really only one main supply pipe into central and eastern Wellington, and this was it," says acting Wellington Water CEO Mark Kinvig.

The business chamber is seeking assurances from the Wellington City Council and the Wellington Regional Council, saying it had highlighted the issue last year.

"We need to be hearing from them that they support the building of the proposed reservoir in Prince of Wales Park and an alternative pipeline into the city, and that they will get funding in place to make those projects happen as soon as possible.

"Perhaps they need to be talking also to central government to become involved," Mr Milford said.

We cannot have a situation where the continued operation of the capital city is under threat because we have just one water pipeline and insufficient storage, he says.

Gary O'Meara from Wellington Water said it's likely that the November earthquake was behind the leak.

"We know that the foreshore area suffered the worst, and our pumping stations and pipelines in the port area suffered damage in the November 14 quake," he said.

"When our guys cut through the concrete road base where the leak was, they found a big hole. It's clearly been leaking for a while."

The leak, from a damaged valve leading off the main pipe, appears to have been eroding the sandy soil beneath the road surface.

It was touch and go on Friday night whether Wellington would have enough water on Saturday morning, as the two main storage reservoirs supplying the central and eastern suburbs slowly emptied out in the evening peak. Operators worked hard to re-route supply, but it was never going to be enough.

Plans are in place to build a 35 million litre reservoir in Prince of Wales Park, and for an alternative pipeline into the city but it will take years.

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