Growth driving big Waipa water spend

25 September 2017
Waipa District Council

Waipa District Council is looking down the barrel of an extra $100-plus million spend on water services over the coming decade.

And while most of that money will be returned to the Council by land developers and others, there are concerns the wider infrastructure industry may not have the capacity to get the work done. 

In its 2015-2025 10-Year Plan, Council budgeted close to $220 million for water, wastewater and stormwater work.  That work is now underway, including an upgrade of the Karapiro water treatment plant and plans to upgrade the Te Awamutu water supply.

But massive growth, particularly in Cambridge, means Waipa ratepayers will need to finance huge, new infrastructure projects to allow housing areas to develop in time for projected demand.

Group manager service delivery Barry Bergin said much of the proposed new spend – around $62 million – was ring-fenced for stormwater infrastructure in Cambridge west. By 2050 a further 14,000 people will call Cambridge home, driving demand for an estimated 212 new houses each year. Much of the new development will be on flat land where soakage is poor.

Bergin said the council would also be required to meet much tougher discharge standards. That would help improve water quality but drive up stormwater costs. Waipa must apply to the Waikato Regional Consent for a new district-wide stormwater consent in 2022.

"Discharge standards are now much higher than they were," he said. "We've looked at a range of options and there's no cheap or easy stormwater fix for Cambridge west. The work needed to open up that area for development is significant."

At this stage, physical drainage works in Cambridge west are tentatively programmed to begin in 2020-21. But timing and funding will depend on the outcome of coming 10-Year Plan discussions.

In addition to new Cambridge housing areas, around $22 million will also be needed to provide water, wastewater and stormwater to the Hautapu industrial site.  Road upgrades are needed to open up the site and provide connections to the Cambridge section of the Waikato Expressway.

On the other side of the district, Council must also build a new wastewater connection from the expanding Waikeria prison to Te Awamutu.  The cost – around $25 million – will be paid by the Department of Corrections.  Te Awamutu's wastewater plant will be upgraded to cope with Te Awamutu's growth as well as the Waikeria extension.  The new wastewater connection is likely to be in place by 2020.

Bergin said massive growth in the district was stretching his team's ability to deliver the capital projects but Waipa was not alone. Across New Zealand, councils were struggling to attract specialist water and technical staff.  Many professional consulting firms, used to support council staff, were already at capacity, he said.

"We already have an enormous capital works programme in front of us and growth across the district is adding to that challenge. It's a very positive challenge to have but we will need to think very carefully about priorities and funding." 

"Those will be issues that elected members, as the decision-makers, will need to weigh up when they consider options for the 10-Year Plan."

Councillors have yet to discuss the potential capital works programme in detail.  Those discussions will be held soon before a first-cut of the 2018-2028 draft 10-Year Plan is developed prior to Christmas.