Council's water supply rules may be changed

John Mackie
John Mackie
A public water main pumps right past Dunedin resident Mike Cowell's front gate, but it might as well be a world away.

Mr Cowell's home in Coast Rd, near Karitane, is one of many rural properties within city limits to fall outside the Dunedin City Council's water supply boundaries.

In Mr Cowell's case, that meant he relied instead on water collected from a nearby stream, harvested from the roof of his home or bought in bottles.

Attempts to connect to the reticulated water main running past his front gate have been rebuffed by council staff since 2004.

However, seven years on, he and other property owners have been given an indication changes could be afoot.

Mr Cowell took his case to the council's water bylaw hearings subcommittee, comprising chairman Cr Andrew Noone, deputy mayor Cr Chris Staynes and Cr Lee Vandervis, this week, as it sat to consider the new draft bylaw.

The bylaw was aimed at clarifying how illegal or informal water connections discovered around the city, including at Mayor Dave Cull's home on Otago Peninsula, would be resolved, and cases handled in future.

However, Mr Cowell's submission focused on the section of the bylaw prohibiting any new connection outside existing water boundaries.

Mr Cowell said the extension of the council's $9.4 million northern water scheme rural supply in recent years meant a pipe now ran right past his property, but "restrictive and inflexible" council boundary rules still denied him access to an essential service.

He and his wife tried to conserve water.

When regular tests showed the water he collected breached health guidelines, Mr Cowell's wife resorted to bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth.

His own preference was to simply ignore the test results, relying on his "reasonably strong gut".

Responding to his concerns, council water and waste services manager John Mackie said his "hands were tied" by existing rules, which acted as a planning tool preventing unwanted ribbon development along pipelines in rural areas.

"That's the big risk ... to keep the nature and character of the rural zone.

"It's been used as a planning instrument," he said.

However, there were no technical reasons properties like Mr Cowell's could not be connected, at a cost, once the implications for future demand were considered, he said.

The council was "constantly" being approached by other residents wanting to connect, and Mr Mackie said he would be happy to provide greater access to supplies if other planning tools could be used instead.

Staff had identified about 900 properties outside water zones but within 50m of a treated water main, "hundreds" of whom might want to connect "given the chance", he told the Otago Daily Times later.

In future, applications for out-of-zone connections could be referred to a council committee, rather than using a time-consuming special consultative procedure to deal with changes, as required now, he told the hearing.

Crs Vandervis and Staynes expressed support for a move to loosen rules and allow greater access to council pipes.

The committee asked Mr Mackie to prepare a report on the issue, to be presented to a future meeting of the council's infrastructure services committee.

 

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