Government sets aside $6m in budget to help build water resilience in Wellington
The Government is stumping up millions of dollars to ensure Wellington's water supply is not cut off by an earthquake.
Most of the city's water is carried by pipes along the Hutt Rd, crossing an identified fault line. Should they be severely damaged, the capital could face weeks without water.
Funding from last week's Budget will be used to help build water resilience in Wellington, which includes drilling for five land-based bores.
No figure has yet been mentioned, though it is understood to be about $6 million.
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Councils around the region are hopeful that further funding packages could be announced later in the year, before the general election.
Since the November 14 earthquake, civic leaders have made a multimillion-dollar plea for the Government to help improve the security of its water supply.
In March, Wellington Mayor Justin Lester, Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) chairman Chris Laidlaw, and Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace met ministers including Finance Minister Steven Joyce.
Laidlaw said they pitched for money to jointly fund a number of projects to improve the security of water supplies.
They proposed going into a 50/50 partnership with the Government. "This is a vital part of that package, and I am grateful they have given us most of what we asked for," he said on Monday.
He expected a longer-term resilience package would be announced in the second half of this year.
"This is a promising start. We will come back to the Government for a more substantial package."
Other uses for the funding will be announced by Local Government Minister Anne Tolley in coming weeks, once the details have been finalised.
She said on Monday: "The Government has set aside funding in Budget 2017 … Discussions with the region's councils on the details are still ongoing."
Work is still under way to investigate whether piping water under Wellington Harbour from Seaview to Miramar, or to the west of the central business district, could work.
GWRC environment committee chairwoman Sue Kedgley said the council was investigating whether there were less expensive alternatives.
The next resilience move needed to be around electricity supply, which went hand in glove with water, she said.
Lester welcomed the funding, and said negotiations were continuing about other investments in making Wellington more resilient.
"We've been discussing what would make the biggest difference, and we're making good progress."
The Government had made it very clear it was standing behind Wellington as it recovered from the latest earthquake and work to make the city safer for the future, he said.
Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson said it was disappointing that a number of Wellington issues, around earthquake strengthening and resilience, had not been announced during Budget 2017.
"It would have been good to see support for these. The Government raised expectations around these issues, and I would not be surprised to see them do something closer to the election."
Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Milford said: "I'm not sure all the work has been done to quantify what we need yet … it's also election year, so it will probably come at a later date."