By Chris Holden
A new reservoir designed to prevent Wellington being cut off from water for up to 100 days following an earthquake is being labelled an absolute priority by a Wellington City councillor.
In an unlikely move, Green Party Councillor Iona Pannett, who chairs the Wellington City Council’s City Strategy Committee, has revealed she is open to considering a public-private partnership to construct the $25 million, 35 million litre reservoir above the Prince of Wales park in central Wellington.
Without the reservoir, Wellingtonians could face up to a 100-day wait to get their water back up and running after a major quake, and Ms Pannett says after last Monday’s 7.8 tremor it must be a priority now.
Ms Pannett’s preference is that the funding comes from central Government but she is open to a public-private partnership.
"Discussions with central Government must begin immediately," Ms Pannett says.
"The Wellington Council simply doesn’t have the funding, and will now need to look to other options."
Documents provided by Wellington Water to Wellington City councillors in 2012 estimate getting water reconnected following a break in the bulk supply lines could take 90 days for the CBD, 100 days for east Wellington, 40 days for Porirua, 15 days for Upper Hutt and between five and 30 days for Lower Hutt.
The Wellington region's entire water supply is currently distributed via three bulk supply lines, all of which are located on major fault lines.
Wellington Water spokesman Alexander van Passen confirmed the time estimates given in the 2012 document are still accurate.
“Wellington Water will aim to begin reconnecting priority customers after the seven day mark, which could take up to 30 days.”
Priority customers include rest homes and hospitals.
“Some non-priority customers may also face wait times of up to 100 days.”
He said the network was undergoing upgrades to the network which aimed to increase its durability and resistance in the event of a major earthquake.
In the event of the bulk water supply lines being severed in an earthquake, the reservoir could be used to provide water to the region's only fully-functioning hospital in Newtown, which at the moment only has a five day emergency supply of water.
Wellington City Council sought a joint funding agreement with the Capital and Coast DHB and the Greater Wellington Regional Council in 2003 when the reservoir was first mooted. But negotiations broke down in 2011 when the DHB walked away from the deal.
Attempts to resuscitate the deal have since failed, and the Wellington City Council’s chief asset manager Anthony Wilson warned in January this year that if the DHB did not contribute to funding the reservoir, "it would not be able to use it when built".
"It is not local government's responsibility to supply emergency water to the hospital," he told Fairfax.
Former Wellington Mayoral candidate and current Capital and Coast DHB member Nick Leggett, who campaigned for building the reservoir, laughed off the suggestion of a public-private partnership.
He says funding is a question of prioritising vanity projects over core infrastructure and its not the DHB’s responsibility to fund council infrastructure.
"The safety of Wellingtonians should come before a $120 million film museum and $90 million set aside for the airport runway extension."
Councillor Pannett agreed that funding for the reservoir should come before funding for the runway extension, putting her at odds with recently-elected mayor Justin Lester.
When contacted by Newshub, Mr Lester refused to comment other than to say the reservoir was a "priority".
It is understood the Wellington City Council will urgently meet on Thursday this week to discuss Wellington’s capability to withstand a major earthquake following last Monday’s earthquake which caused substantial damage to the Wellington CBD.