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Three Waters boost for Wairoa infrastructure

A post COVID-19 stimulus on steroids will see more than $11m invested into Wairoa’s Three Waters infrastructure.

The Wairoa District Council secured $11.04 million of funding for Three Waters work as part of the Government’s national three waters (drinking water, wastewater, stormwater) investment funding package, of which $50 million was set aside for Hawke’s Bay’s four local authorities.

Council has now received approval from the Department of Internal Affairs to carry out 16 projects ranging in value from $12,000 to $2.9m.

The focus is at a local and regional level with key outcomes being compliance, future proofing and environmental sustainability.

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little said the grant will enable Council to build resilience and compliance in the community without it costing the ratepayer.

More than half the work has already been stripped out of Council Long-Term plan. Projects have been assessed against a priority matrix and meet the strict guidelines and timeframes around the funding regulations.

“We know our infrastructure, like most of New Zealand, has been neglected because of lack of funds. This work allows us to future proof and work towards being sustainable. We hope there will be operational savings by being smarter and more efficient, but we have to balance that against the increasing compliance costs.

“To deliver these projects will require more resources; Council will employ four full time staff for two years which will be funded externally from the grant and also help boost Council’s expert skillset and resilience.

“We are trying to do as much as we can in-house to build capacity and capability and minimise outsourcing and the costs of professional service fees.”

A big-ticket item is $2.9 million for the installation of smart meters in the Wairoa Township area which will be installed at no cost to ratepayers along with new water tobys connected to every property.

Each connection will have a back-flow preventer, a Ministry of Health requirement, which will help ensure safe reliable drinking water. The meters will be linked to GIS database to provide accurate data.

Group Manager Community Assets and Services Stephen Heath said, “Wairoa has improved its water loss from having one of the worst in NZ in 2017 where water loss was recorded at 52% and there was less than a day’s water storage in the town’s reservoirs. Over the last two- years Council has made huge in-roads in understanding and reducing water loss to 20%, which is a significant improvement.”

“We produce 90 million litres of water a month just for town, that’s exclusive of Affco. Despite our improvements we are still losing 18 million litres a month, or 20% of what we produce.

This equates to 100 homes having one dripping tap and one running toilet. One dripping tap at two drips per second can use 1,300 litres per month, and one running toilet can easily use 150,000 litres in one month. We don’t know where it goes, but through smart meter data we will be able to pick up water loss like leaking taps and running toilets and save water.

“Compliance and best practice are our drivers, and we aim to get down to a 3% water loss.

“This is about risk and resilience and minimising wastage for council and more importantly the community.”

The smart meters, which will come out of Europe, and are used throughout New Zealand, have a 15-year battery life and are based on the same concept as smart electrical meters.

“At the moment for every litre that goes down the drain we are paying twice. We pay to treat the water and supply to the consumer, and we pay to take it away in the wastewater. This is about partnering with our community to stop water loss. Smart meters will also be installed in the main water pipes for both Wairoa township and Tuai.”

Another project will see $1.2 million will go towards wastewater pipe relining in line with the Long-Term Plan.

Relocating the Achilles Street water main has also been tagged and will cost just over $1 million with the water main moved into the curb and channel and new technology will mean no joins in the water main.

Mr Heath said the water main running under Achilles Street has been problematic for years. It is a high traffic area with Council called to fix leaks 50 times in the last 10-years.

“Design work is underway, and we expect to start physical work in February.”

The wastewater treatment plant upgrade will see a deep desludge of the top pond and improved filter and grit removal for non-biological solids. A sustainable bug desludge programme will be introduced and incorporate a UV disinfectant system. The project will cost just shy of $1million, plus approximately $700,000 for the filtration work.

Council will also use some of this stimulus fund to invest into land-based irrigation partnerships to nearby properties, this has allowed the community and Councils aspiration to be brought forward and will help achieve the wider waste water project outcomes.

Funding of approximately $450,000 has been tagged for dedicated pump station generators to help council align with National Policy Statements for freshwater management and sewer overflows.

A partnership with the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council will see $180,000 for pipeline renewals to allow the town’s water main, which is slipping into the river, to be moved as part of the regional council’s $1 million River Parade erosion protection.

Funding of $157,000 will be spent on the continuation of the Wairoa Sewer Network CCTV work.

The grant also allows for consideration to partner with Mahanga and Blue Bay Opoutama residents for rainwater tanks and assisting the Raupunga water scheme with chlorination dosing pumps.

Approximately $700,000 has been allocated for Opoutama wastewater scheme upgrades to address environmental loadings and consent limits being exceeded.

Due to the tight timeframes back up projects of continuing the Kitchener Street storm water upgrade, an electrical upgrade of the water treatment plant and piping open drains in town have been identified as potential back up projects.

The Hawke’s Bay allocation included $20 million in recognition of the collaborative regional approach.

The $50 million was apportioned based on geographical size and population with Wairoa District Council tagged to receive $11.04m, Napier City Council $12.51m, Hastings District Council $15.36m and Central Hawke’s Bay District Council $11.09m.

The grant is specifically targeted for wastewater and drinking water and aimed to support economic recovery through job creation, and maintaining, increasing and/or accelerating investment in core wastewater and water infrastructure.

Mr Heath said the funding carries strict guidelines and timeframes of how and where the funding can be spent, and work must be underway by March 31, 2021 and completed by March 31, 2022.

1 December 2020

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