Three Waters

‘Three waters’ is core to the functioning and development of local communities and businesses. It means the drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure services.

All councils moved as quickly as possible to restore urgent services on a temporary basis while preparing for permanent repairs to drinking water supplies, pumping stations and bores, waste water treatment stations and bridges. In most cases, boil water notices have been lifted. Most assessment of damage work, including the use of CCTV through pipework, has been completed.

Hurunui intends to have its infrastructure largely rebuilt by the end of calendar 2018. Kaikōura’s and Marlborough‘s programmes of works are expected to be underway until 2020.

Three waters is primarily local government’s responsibility, as outlined in the Local Government Act 2002. The key stakeholders are therefore the local communities and their three district councils. This has been augmented with help from regulatory and government agencies.

Key challenges to ‘three waters’ were evident even before the November 2016 earthquake. The Kaikōura, Hurunui and Marlborough district councils’ 2015-2025 infrastructure strategies signalled challenges to:

  • improve asset information and risk management
  • address natural hazards
  • affordability (noting these councils have a low rating base with large asset demand)
    plan for changing demographics
  • appropriate resourcing / staffing according to the needs and community requirements.

Challenges arising from the Earthquake

The November 2016 earthquake caused significant damage to town and rural water supplies, and to wastewater and stormwater infrastructure services across the region.

All councils moved as quickly as possible to restore urgent services on a temporary basis while preparing for permanent repairs. In most cases, boil water notices have been lifted.

Financial support and assistance

Significant funding was required, at short notice, to aid the recovery process and, in particular, the replacement of lifeline ‘three waters’ infrastructure damaged by the earthquakes.

The Crown has disaster recovery funding arrangements with local authorities. Under those arrangements, the Crown will pay a 60% portion of the reinstatement costs for local infrastructure suffering damage from a natural disaster. Under normal circumstances, the local authorities carry out the repairs to the damaged infrastructure through their reserves and then request for the payment of the Crown’s share of costs. The Crown is being responsive to the unique financial circumstances of each Council to ensure that work is being progressed.

Funding to assist local councils with their three waters rebuild and repair allocated or estimated to date includes:

  • An estimated $26 million towards the three waters repair and rebuild across the three councils, as the Crown’s 60% contribution, based on an estimated $42 million of damage. The cost of the damage continues to be updated.
  • $2.6 million for the Hurunui and Kaikōura districts to repair waste facilities, recycle earthquake debris and manage hazardous waste. This was a joint council initiative between Environment Canterbury (project lead), Hurunui District Council, and Kaikōura District Council to repair and upgrade damaged waste infrastructure and to manage hazardous waste streams (such as asbestos and hazardous household waste) generated as part of the earthquake recovery.
  • An additional $2.4 million appropriated for Kaikōura District Council to meet the costs of additional works required to improve the outdated and resilient three waters infrastructure.

A structured response

Legislative and administrative support is being provided to assist pressing ‘three waters’ infrastructure issues. During the recovery phase this support has been very much coordinated through the National Recovery Office.

A government representative was appointed in May 2017 to assist the council’s infrastructure rebuild. This includes providing support and guidance for the rebuilding and rebuild of three waters, horizontal infrastructure and facilities, with a view to achieving a rebuild that is timely and value for money.

Outstanding issues and next issues

Basic infrastructure is now restored. Temporary water mains are in place and water tankers augment storage previously within reservoirs. Because the earthquake ran straight through Kaikōura’s effluent aeration pond, sewerage has had to be pumped straight into the oxygen pond as a temporary repair. Environmental standards are still being met, although the water is not being treated to the same standard as pre-quake.

The next challenge is improving the quality and security of service levels: water supplies, restoring water reservoirs, and improving the quality of sewage treatment processes. This will be an ongoing process.

The Kaikōura District Council has briefs in the market for priority fixes (the aeration lagoon, Lyell Creek sewer options, and five key bridges). Construction work will begin in 2018.

The Marlborough and Hurunui District councils are finalising assessments of the scope and costs of the damage to their three waters, and are establishing procurement processes. Damage in Marlborough largely relates to earthen pipes and river protection. In Hurunui, on the other hand, the damage largely relates to drinking water supply networks.

For more information about ‘three waters’ work during earthquake recovery phase, contact DIA on 0800 25 78 87 or