Water thieves warned to back off

23 November 2015
Waipa District Council

Private companies that take Waipa water without permission have been warned to stop or face possible prosecution.

In the last two weeks, tanker companies and private contractors have been seen plugging into Te Awamutu fire hydrants and filling up tankers. Last week local residents around Golf Road had their water drained, leaving some without water at all and others with residue in their taps.

The incident, complete with photos, was reported to Waipa District Council. Council is chasing the company involved and following up on other recent incidents on Collins Ave and Park Road.  If proven the rogue companies could face prosecution and be liable for a $20,000 fine.

Waipa water services manager Tony Hale had heard of similar incidents in Cambridge last summer and said council was determined to “knock the practice on the head.”

“It’s simply not on.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s theft. Waipa ratepayers have paid to have that water treated and pumped and available for their use. To have an organisation come in and take it, and in some instances on-sell it for any reason is just simply unacceptable,” he said.

The practice also put public health at risk.

“We’ve had instances, including last week, where it’s created dirty water in household taps and impacted short-term on a local rest home. There’s potential for untreated water from the tanker to flow back into our network which is completely unacceptable and potentially a public health hazard.”

Waipa residents who saw water being taken from fire hydrants should ask questions, take photos, note down number plates and report the incident to council immediately, he said. Enforcement staff would follow it up.

Hale said Waipa District Council provided water tankers and private contractors with two bulk filling points – one in Te Awamutu and one in Cambridge.  Users must have a permit and were charged $2.50 per cubic meter and a $20 month fee.

“So it’s not like bulk water is not available but it’s not a free for all because water is not a free commodity.  There are big costs to making water available and commercial operators and others can’t expect to get it for free, courtesy of our ratepayers.”

Hale said fire brigades were the only organisation usually allowed to plug into fire hydrants.  Unless the water was being used for fire-fighting, they were also required to have permits or be registered with the District Health Board, he said.  Fire brigades were not allowed to sell water without permission from health authorities.