Extra pipes rendered redundant
Recycled water schemes are going down the gurgler in Stonefields.
The Mt Wellington subdivision was touted as a blueprint for future Auckland development with ground-breaking ideas including a reusable water system.
Every Stonefields house built so far has an extra pipe, which was meant to allow treated storm and rainwater to be reused.
But Watercare is pulling the plug, despite the pipe network's $7.2 million cost.
Stonefields' Hari Segar moved into the suburb because of the forward-thinking ideas.
Being able to water the garden and wash the car with reused water appealed to everyone who bought into the former quarry development, the Stonefields Residents Association chairman says.
"It was a major selling point for us to start with. And now that we've bought here, it's all changing. Everyone is jumping up and down about it.
"Somebody needs to take responsibility. It's causing a lot of grief."
A condition of buying into the subdivision was that residents must use recycled water for toilets and gardens, Segar says.
Stonefields residents were sold houses on the promise of water savings and similar systems have been used worldwide, he says.
No-one has been consulted by Watercare or Auckland Council about the decision, Segar says.
"We were forced to do this when we bought our houses. It was a legal agreement.
"If they want to change it, they need to come and talk to us about it.
"Why are they running away?"
Stonefields' Rex Maddock says it is disappointing and frustrating to hear about the change of heart.
"It's not the reason I bought here but it was definitely an advantage.
"We just couldn't believe it when we found out they (Watercare) wanted to scrap it. Why build it if you don't use it?"
Watercare spokesman John Redwood says the cost for residents and the health risks involved outweigh the sustainable benefits.
Watercare inherited the Stonefields network when it merged with Metrowater in 2010.
Stonefields was then running on the same drinkable water used Auckland-wide while the plant was being completed, he says.
Redwood says it's not that Watercare is scrapping the initiative. It was never seriously considered, he says.
"We're not anti-sustainability, far from it.
"The concerns we have about it are the ones we have always had."
It would cost residents up to five times more than the present scheme, he says.
Watercare has an A-grade rating for water supply which could be jeopardised by the third-pipe system, Redwood says.
People don't realise stormwater run-off has chemicals in it which need treatment to make them safe, he says.
New Zealand doesn't have the framework to control cross-pipe contamination and there would still be a risk of inadvertent drinking from outside taps, he says.
"It's a real risk. A lot of people say it's a small risk but we would say that any small risk is too big."
An Auckland Council spokesperson says the project was given the green light initially because of the sustainable values it promoted.
The council reviewed the situation in December and decided to continue operating without the recycling system until another review was conducted this year.
"The initiative was based on considerations of environmental sustainability, however the proposed operation and maintenance of the scheme would entail significant cost considerations and potential water quality issues."
Orakei Local Board chairwoman Desley Simpson says the backtrack is shocking for Stonefields residents.
The board wants Watercare to face up to residents at a public meeting in May.
"Stonefields was touted as one of the best subdivisions being built in Auckland. The water was one of the reasons people thought it was such a great idea," Simpson says.
East And Bays Courier