17 Feb, 2020 5:00am
By: Michael Neilson – The New Zealand Herald
Severe water shortages for Aucklanders on tank supply are sparking calls to connect more properties to the city’s network with the situation expected to only worsen with climate change.
But for many residents the connection fees, which for some rural residents can be as high as $30,000 for both wastewater and reticulated supply, is well out of reach and a councillor is calling for more assistance for those who want to connect.
Auckland Council estimates there are about 50,000 households on rainwater tanks across the region with a large increase in recent years, particularly around the Rodney and Franklin wards.
With a record-breaking dry run this summer there has been unprecedented demand on water tank re-filling services, with one company reporting a waiting list well over 200 households long, and some residents reporting nearly two-month wait times.
The Herald has profiled desperate families surviving on minimal water – including one with a two-week-old baby – and even people having to move out of their homes after their tanks ran dry.
Auckland Council has stepped in to provide emergency relief with temporary filling stations and even employing dairy tankers to distribute water faster, but Rodney ward councillor Greg Sayers said there needed to be a better long-term solution.
“The situation for many families is dire. Sanitary conditions for households are critically poor in those households without water. This is of considerable concern for the wellbeing of these Aucklanders.
“With climate change we are going to see more of this dry weather, and for longer. At the moment we are scrambling to get water to domestic households, and there need to be systems in place so this doesn’t happen again.
“I’d like to see some sort of amnesty for those on tank supply who could connect to the reticulated system, or at least hook on for a lot lower cost. Estimates of $20,000 to $30,000 is just too much for many households.”
Sayers said he had been in contact with Watercare about developing a cost-benefit analysis to help residents connect.
There also needed to be a better Drought Response Plan for those on tank supply he said.
A Watercare spokeswoman said they estimated there were several thousand properties about Whangaparaoa Peninsula, Snells Beach, Warkworth, Patumahoe, Clarks Beach, Glenbrook Beach, Wellsford, Helensville, Kumeu, Riverhead and Huapai that could connect to the reticulated supply but had chosen not to.
Areas already connected to the wastewater network only had to pay half Watercare’s infrastructure growth charge to connect to the reticulated water supply, ranging from about $8000 on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, Clarks Beach and Waiuku; up to about $14,000 in Helensville.
Auckland Council and Watercare has instigated a range of measures to assist rural residents on tank supply as the dry weather continues.