Council gets new software to pinpoint areas needing repairs

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 20/05/2014

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Programmes for replacing pipes, footpaths and council housing fittings in Palmerston North should run more efficiently as a result of two new tools for city council staff.

New software is likely to be approved that will help water engineers identify which pipes are most in need of repair based on issues other than just their age.

A second change will be granting managers authority to get on with planning renewals programmes before the budget for the coming financial year is signed off, to avoid a June to August lull in activity.

Two software options are being considered by water and waste services manager Rob Green for planning pipe replacements, with the preferred choice expected to be recommended to the council next week.

Green said the water and waste renewals budget was more than $2 million a year.

Better decision-making about which pipes to replace would not save money, but would ensure it was spent where it was most needed.

"Decisions with regard to when to undertake renewals have historically been primarily based on asset age, which is not the only indicator of asset condition."

The new system would be able to be loaded up with information about soil types, the fluid contents, manufacturing and installation techniques, and help inform better choices.

The other change recommended by yesterday's finance and performance committee was to help make the most of a $3.7m budget for a range of renewal programmes.

They include stormwater, wastewater and water pipes, footpaths and vehicle crossings, social and public rental housing renewals and refurbishments.

City Networks general manager Ray Swadel said productivity on all those projects slumped in the early months of the new financial year, because managers did not have approval to plan the works.

That left specialist work crews such as drainlayers within City Enterprises without any renewals work to do, and they were diverted to other work like clearing drainage reserves and weeding.

Under the new proposal, officers with financial responsibility would be authorised to plan and agree on work for City Enterprises teams to continue with before councillors formally approved budgets.

They would be limited to committing 20 per cent of the renewals budget likely to be available for each activity.

Swadel said that would still give councillors scope to vary the full-year budget by up to 80 per cent.

"I have never seen budgets pulled back to anything like that extent," he said. "Council has usually supported renewals spending so our assets are not left to run down."

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The committee endorsed the request.

Chairwoman Susan Baty said it would improve efficiency.

- Manawatu Standard

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