Water mains need urgent work

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 08/05/2014
nvercargill City Council engineering project manager Tim Joss
SHORT LIFE SPAN: Invercargill City Council engineering project manager Tim Joss holds a sample of the cement asbestos pipes that are bursting across the city.

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Millions of dollars will be shovelled underground in an effort to protect inner-city Invercargill shops from being flooded.

Water pipes across the city have burst in succession and now the council looks set to spend millions of dollars replacing the "1950s vintage" pipes.

However, the biggest concern lies under Esk St, and the Invercargill City Council is going to fast track work to replace the pipe this year, costing about $400,000.

The Esk St work will be followed by the replacement of the piping network of similar age, which could cost more than $5 million.

Invercargill City Council chief executive Richard King said the pipe under Esk St caused the most concern because of the lack of kerbing outside the shops.

If the pipe burst, it would send water gushing down the street and possibly into shops, King said.

"The potential danger is that it [the Esk St pipe] could burst and flood all the shops in the city."

City council water manager Alister Murray agreed, saying the city street was "vulnerable".

The council had been dealing with three major cement asbestos pipes that burst last month, one outside the council building, one in Don St and another in Kew Rd.

The series of burst pipes that cut off water to city homes, flooded streets and caused thousands of dollars of damage had been unexpected and an investigation was launched.

Murray said the results of the investigation were disappointing.

"The end result is the wall thickness of the pipes is thinner ... for some pipes that degradation is going to be more significant. The failures that we are getting now are occurring earlier than we have assigned to the pipes."

The Italian-made 150mm- 200mm pipes were of lower quality than the New Zealand-made pipes and did not seem to be lasting for their expected life span of 65 years, he said.

The council would have to spend about $400,000 in the 2014-2015 financial year on the urgent Esk St repairs, but then would be looking at millions of dollars the following year in the central city, Bluff and Glengarry areas.

"The cost in today's figures is of the order of $5.3 million."

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt believes the council needs to look at seeking compensation from the firm that supplied the original pipes.

The city council would have to deal with the situation swiftly, but councils had plans in place for things went wrong like this, Shadbolt said.

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The council would simply prioritise the work to ensure there was not a crisis, he said.

Finance and policy committee chairman Neil Boniface played down the situation and said it would not have a huge impact on the pocket of ratepayers.

Other work would be delayed and the pipes upgrade prioritised. It would be dealt with under the council's asset management plan and a loan could be taken out to fix the issues, Boniface said.

"It's just changing priorities, I don't think it is necessarily going to have a huge impact at all."

He believed the millions of dollars would covered by a loan, with payments spread out over time.

"We have $800 million of assets and most of that is under the ground. I think it is just rearranging priorities."

- The Southland Times

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