Westport fire brigade has back-up plan should town run dry as residents meet about water crisis

Westport Volunteer Fire Brigade fire chief Alan Kennedy says the brigade can handle any emergency fires should the ...

Westport Volunteer Fire Brigade fire chief Alan Kennedy says the brigade can handle any emergency fires should the town's water reservoirs run dry.

The Westport fire brigade can handle any emergency fires should the town's water reservoirs run dry, the fire chief says.

Last week Buller District Council urged Westport and Carters Beach residents to comply with "essential use only" water restrictions. This meant use was restricted to water for drinking, cooking and sanitation purposes.

Westport – one of the wettest places in New Zealand – received about 2000 millimetres of rain a year, while Christchurch averaged about 650mm. However, its water usage averaged 986 litres per person – three times the national daily per person use of 250 litres to 300 litres – because some farms used the town supply.

Drip taken by Delwyn Forsythe.
Delwyn Forsythe

Drip taken by Delwyn Forsythe.

Emergency water tanks have been brought into town as its supply was expected to run dry in fewer than six days. A public meeting to discuss the water crisis will be held in the town on Wednesday night. 

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The Westport Volunteer Fire Brigade draws its water from the town's main supply, which was below 50 per cent of total capacity.

Westport fire chief Alan Kennedy said the council would allow the brigade to draw water from the main supply should a blaze break out in the area.

The brigade covered a region that stretched as far south as Punakaiki, north to near Waimangaroa and east to the Buller Gorge. It had stopped using water during wet-training runs to help the town conserve water.

Should the Westport and Carters Beach supply run dry Kennedy said the brigade had a back-up plan.

"We have back-up hoses from Holcim cement plant. They have a heap of hoses and we can pump from the Buller River," he said.

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"I've got a 70,000 litre water tanker situated at the top end of Derby St and we can draw from that.

"We've got a 7000 litre mobile water tank from Fulton Hogan we can cart round to our trucks and we've also got Granity's water tanker we can call on if we have a major fire in the area.

"We've got another 50,000 litre water source at the other end of town so we have plenty of water around the place."

Granity brigade draws its water from the Hector water supply, north of Westport. 

West Coast medical officer of health Cheryl Brunton said reduced water quantity was as a public health issue, even when water quality was not a problem.

"Community and Public Health are working actively with the council to address the water supply issue. We support their public messaging – particularly their emphasis on the urgent need to conserve water for essential purposes."

West Coast District Health Board general manager Philip Wheble said any unnecessary water use at the Buller Health Centre was being reviewed to ensure it followed council's water restriction requirements.

 - Stuff


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