‘Greatest’ challenge almost complete

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan stands alongside two of the council’s new Three Waters maintenance...
Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan stands alongside two of the council’s new Three Waters maintenance fleet in Balclutha yesterday. PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON
A southern council is putting the finishing touches to its "greatest ever challenge" as it prepares to take Three Waters management in-house.

In April, Clutha District Council announced it would bring operations and maintenance of drinking, waste and stormwater infrastructure in-house, following long-standing issues with its Three Waters contractor Citycare Water.

That transition is due to occur on Saturday, and yesterday Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said the process had been the "greatest ever challenge" the council had undertaken.

"We’ve had an exceptional response to our recruitment drive for in-house staff to take over Three Waters for us, and we’re in the final stages of resourcing those staff so they can hit the ground running on July 1.

"Part of that has been sourcing and equipping about 20 utes to allow them to cover the huge extent of our Three Waters network. It’s a massive undertaking."

In April, the council announced it would terminate its contract with Citycare a year early, by "mutual agreement".

A council spokeswoman said an initial 24 in-house staff would now take over operational and maintenance duties. About 80% of roles had been filled, and some had already begun work.

The new team would oversee a water network providing for almost 15,000 people in 15 towns, and 2000 rural properties across the district. It would use third-party contractors to provide additional service where necessary.

The spokeswoman said the council could not say how much the transition would cost, as it was not yet complete.

Mr Cadogan requested patience and understanding while new staff got up to speed.

"Clutha is large with around 2500km of pipes to look after, and contractors will assist with this.

"We’ll continue to prioritise requests for service across the district, fixing issues in order of priority rather than based on where or when they were reported.

"It will take some time for everything to be up and running as smoothly as we’d like — this is a big change."

Three Waters will become the responsibility of a proposed new Otago-Southland water entity on or before July 1, 2026.