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Porirua mayor asks Govt to help with $1.8 million water infrastructure costs

Porirua Mayor Anita Baker is calling on the Government to help with significant water infrastructure costs, saying it’s impossible for ratepayers to foot the bill.

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That’s how much it will cost to fix leaks and build more pipes over the next 30 years. Source: 1 NEWS

“I plead with Government to get on board with the councils and help us out,” she told 1 NEWS.

This week, water management service Wellington Water warned Porirua City Council that over the next 20 to 30 years, it will need to spend $1.8 billion on fixing pipes, maintenance and increasing infrastructure for projected population growth.

“Really shocked but not surprised, we have been budgeting an extra 2.7 per cent in our rates for infrastructure but it's nowhere near enough so we have to work out what we can do and what we can’t do within our budgets this year," Ms Baker said.

“We knew we had broken pipes but since Kaikoura (earthquake), we’ve got more pipes,” Ms Baker said.

The council has budgeted $300 million for water over the next 10 to 20 years, she said.

“I don’t think any council has put money aside enough to cover the upcoming infrastructure.”

Last month, Hutt City Council was briefed it would need to spend $270 million over the next decade on improving infrastructure maintenance, replacing pipes and to meet demand for new infrastructure.

In the capital, the city council has launched an inquiry after a string of high-profile wastewater spills.

In drought-stricken Northland, the district council has been criticised for its water management.

Infrastructure NZ chief executive Paul Blair said part of the issue is it’s hard for councils to get public approval for prioritising infrastructure investment.

“It’s not particularly sexy, we don’t get many votes for dealing with things that people can’t see as opposed to perhaps roads or a library, so our infrastructure is in relatively poor condition in parts of the country,” he said.

He said while water delivery is the responsibility of councils, climate change, reform to improve water quality and caps on what councils can invest in for population growth means it’s sensible for the Government to step in with investment, given potential costs for public health and housing.

“Though it’s been well-intentioned, it's three and a half years on since the Havelock issues that we had and we're simply not making progress fast enough. I think the central Government needs to come to the party with financial incentives to consolidate and get professional in our water sector.”

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta is considering options for how water infrastructure and sustainability costs could be reduced for councils.

These include the Government helping pay for councils to investigate shared service arrangements, investigating the possibility of a national water infrastructure fund for developing new water delivery methods and investigating "whether there is an appropriate legislative mechanism through which sustainable service delivery and funding arrangements could be achieved," Ms Mahuta said in a statement.

A Bill for funding infrastructure in areas where there is high growth in the population has been developed, she said.

“It’s always been in front of council as a serious issue that they must plan for, there can be improvements if councils start to think differently in how they share their capacity and capability to deliver water and we’re currently going through the process of trying to work with local council about how we might address the issues around costs for infrastructure,” Ms Mahuta said.

She said water cannot continue to be delivered by 78 territorial authorities, with the Government talking to councils about the benefits of amalgamating for water services like in the wider Wellington region.

“The issues in Northland with the drought highlight how a region needs to be in the process of planning for the resilience of the provision of water.”