Town belt changes unanimously approved for $25m reservoir
Essential requirements for the construction of a 35-million-litre reservoir in Prince of Wales Park have been approved, despite opposition from some Mt Cook residents.
Wellington city councillors say the reservoir, nearly twice the size of Wellington's largest largest at present, could be essential after a large earthquake.
However, at a committee meeting on Thursday, submitter Robert Ayson said the council could instead consider smaller reservoirs in multiple places.
"The central city, and the southern and eastern suburbs face the longest wait for water supply after a major event - 100 plus days," he said.
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"How can eastern suburb residents, for example someone in Miramar, be reassured that a single reservoir at Omaroro rather than multiple reservoirs in different locations, is part of an answer to their resiliency requirements?"
Plans to build the reservoir in Prince of Wales Park would probably see the surrounding sports fields raised by up to 1.5 metres.
The rise would halve the amount of heavy vehicle traffic excavating the site and divert thousands of tonnes of earth from landfill.
But Ayson said it was problematic for the committee to OK the raising of the field before geotech assessments were complete.
The number of submissions indicated there was no "magic balance" to mitigate traffic effects associated with taking earth off the site, he said.
"The proposed reservoir, and the effects that it will generate, are too big for the site," he said.
"We worry that councillors are being given overly rosy assurances about the effects on the town belt ... including environmental issues."
Chairwoman Iona Pannett said for council staff and staff at Wellington Water, it was a complex project that would take courage.
"I am convinced that we need it. We are very, very vulnerable to earthquakes in this city, and we have now had enough evidence to show that we need better access to water."
Pannett said large infrastructure projects were difficult and would "always have negative impacts on the community", and the environment.
Over the years, Mt Cook's support for the project had lessened as more information came to light, she said.
"I acknowledge those concerns and consider many of them valid, which is why mitigating them is going to take a considerable amount of effort."
The project still has to gain resource consent before work began, Pannett said, the application for which would be lodged on September 15.
Final sign-off of the application would be handled by an independent commissioner, which was standard practice for any large council-run project.
Wellington Water held a number of open days to consult fully and understand a number of concerns in the community, she said.
Councillors unanimously approved the easement relating to the reservoir and its associated infrastructure.
Currently, Wellington would have limited water reserves if it was cut off by a big quake.
Based on regular use the city has 19 hours of water reserves.
The proposed reservoir would double this, or increase it to 15-25 days with restricted usage.
Construction would begin in 2019 and be largely completed by 2021, but was dependent on receiving consents for the Town Belt easement, a planning consent, and the council accepting it into the Long Term Plan.
It was expected to cost between $25m and $30m.