Residents on the Plateau who have opposed the siting of the new Ōtaki reservoir have had their hopes dashed after the Kāpiti Coast District Council announced the project would go ahead as planned.
The announcement came less than 24 hours after the third public meeting on the issue at the Waitohu School hall on August 1. Towards the end of the meeting, a resident asked mayor Janet Holborow if the council could reconsider a previously proposed site nearer Rāhui Road.
The mayor said she would ask staff to have another look, which appeased some residents who had been angered by what they saw as council not listening to their concerns.
They told Ōtaki Today after the meeting that they thought the mayor’s offer meant no final decision would be made until that investigation was completed.
However, by midday on August 2, Ōtaki Today received a council media release saying the reservoir’s preferred location on the Plateau had been confirmed. It’s understood the media release had been drafted and was ready for release the previous day, before the meeting.
The day after the meeting, the mayor contacted Ōtaki Today to explain her position.
“At the meeting, a member of the public expressed a desire for staff to look once again at a suggested site. I was clear at the meeting that the site isn’t suitable, having visited it with the deputy mayor. However, in order to close the issue off, I agreed to share the suggestion with staff.
“This will not impact on the ongoing planning to progress with the existing site, nor the report coming to council. It is a site that staff are aware of and is unsuitable in terms of access and elevation, as I identified at the meeting.”
At the first meeting, council officers and elected members heard that nearby residents opposed the siting of the reservoir in a new lifestyle subdivision running off the top of Te Manuao Road and to the east of Freemans Road. The council said the block on which the reservoir would sit had already been bought and was ideal for many reasons, including its elevation.
As a compromise, it resolved to look at moving it further back from nearby houses.
Those proposals came to the second meeting, at which some residents were optimistic the reservoir could be moved, and with surrounding planting, made less obtrusive on existing properties.
However, the August 1 meeting was told that any plans to move the reservoir had been stymied by the developer of the subdivision.
That developer invoked the terms of the agreement under which the section was bought by the council. It specified where the reservoir would be. Its effect on the other sections still to be developed was a consideration.
Even with an offer of financial compensation, there was no budging, project manager Peter Bollmann told the meeting.
Asked if the deal should have been a compulsory acquisition under the Public Works Act, he said that could have involved lengthy delays and appeals.
“What you’re telling us is that the concerns of new residents carry more weight than those who have been living here for years,” one resident said.
The council’s media release on August 2, quoting the mayor, said that “after a thorough investigation, the preferred location of the new Ōtaki reservoir has been confirmed on the site at 71 Te Manuao Road”.
“A number of sites around the area were considered for the project and the Te Manuao Road location was identified as the best place due to its elevation, proximity to water services, and low earthquake risk.”
The council’s release said that after hearing from neighbours about the negative visual impacts of the reservoir, it had looked into whether it could be moved back on the site and any implications of doing so.
The council said factors included:
• the need to keep the reservoir and associated infrastructure within the site
• the extra earthworks required
• the impact on the rest of the development
• other environmental impacts, such as erosion control, and
• the property agreement.
“We tried to balance neighbours’ desires with the need to improve the resilience of the Ōtaki drinking water network and increase its capacity to support projected growth and have come to the conclusion that the initial location remains the only option.
“We acknowledge we could have worked with residents earlier in this process and that this decision will not please everyone. We have learnt from this experience and are committed to working with the community as the project progresses. We will ensure we reduce the visual impact on the neighbours as much as we possibly can, including native planting.”
Earthworks are planned to begin in October and construction of the reservoir will follow.
The new reservoir is required to improve the resilience and fire-fighting capability of Ōtaki’s water supply as well as support existing and future homes in Ōtaki. It will be used in an emergency if the water supply from the town’s pumping stations is disrupted.