Low water pressure worries residents

Residents of Heaton Park want their water supply fixed after firefighters were unable to use the subdivision's hydrants during last week's Mt Alpha fire, leaving their homes at risk.

Heaton Park sits at the foot of Mt Alpha, to the south of where the fire started on Wednesday afternoon and was within a few hundred metres of the flames after the fire reignited late on Wednesday night.

The small community's water supply, held in tanks about 100m up the mountain, was also in danger of being swept up by the blaze.

Resident Graeme Finch said fire crews were told by local residents to protect the tanks.

''If the fire had taken those tanks out, this whole area and maybe Far Horizon [Park] would have had no water at all for a very long time.''

Compounding that danger was the lack of water volume in the tanks, resulting in no water pressure in the hydrants, including the one closest to the fire on the mountain.

Mr Finch said that at 8.15pm on Thursday, as firefighters battled the fire, Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) rural firefighters attempted to fill a tanker using one of the hydrants, only to discover there was no water pressure.

Had the fire continued moving towards the park, Mr Finch said homes could have been in serious trouble.

''We all had our sprinklers on just in case,'' he said.

''When it reignited, the best thing was there was no wind. Had there been wind and embers flying we all would have been [in trouble].

''Nobody panicked at any stage, but we all knew what could've happened had there been some wind. We were very lucky.''

Queenstown Lakes District Council media spokesman Sam White said the council was prioritising an investigation into the water system at Heaton Park after its performance during the fire was ''unexpected and concerning''.

A network performance assessment was completed about 18 months ago using a hydraulic model, and no issues were found.

''We are investigating potential root causes of the low pressure and why our data is different to the situation on the ground. This will enable us to update local residents and Fenz and take action to boost pressure as required.''

But Mr Finch was not convinced.

''There has been a lot of talk about getting adequate systems put in place since the subdivision was established [over a decade ago], and the council has done nothing.

''Permanent residents here have been discussing the issue with the council for months, if not years.''

He said he was concerned he would not get insurance cover if his home burnt down and it was discovered the hydrant had no pressure.

Another resident, who did not wish to be named, said he had discussed the issue with the council during the past five or six years.

The council could not say when the investigation would be completed.

sean.nugent@odt.co.nz

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