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A water reservoir the council is about to begin building in Ōtaki has nearby residents concerned about its location close to their houses, and what they say has been a lack of consultation.

The reservoir – essentially a huge water tank – is to be seven metres high, 35 metres in diameter and capable of holding 5.5 million litres of water. Work was scheduled to begin this month on the elevated site in a paddock clearly visible from Speranza Avenue on the Waitohu Plateau. Access will be from near the top of Te Manuao Road.

Note this stylised image shows the reservoir in its originally proposed position – the council is looking at how far back on the section it can go.

Kāpiti Coast District Council says the reservoir will improve the resilience and fire-fighting capability of the water supply as well as support existing and future homes in Ōtaki. Those include the new subdivision at Ōtaki-Māori Racing Club, less than a kilometre away.

Ōtaki currently has limited water storage and relies on bores and pumps to supply most of the community. The council says if a significant problem occurred with a pump or the treatment station, most of Ōtaki would immediately lose water.

The new reservoir will provide at least 24 hours of water storage. It will be built to withstand a 1:2500-year earthquake, making it the strongest structure in the area.

Residents nearby agree the town needs a secure water supply, but they say the location of the reservoir near houses is not the right place for it. Those closest, Gloria Thurley and Carma Simpson, who live at the top of Speranza Avenue, say it needs to go at least 40m further back from its proposed location.

NOT HAPPY: Gloria Thurley, and Carma Simpson in Gloria's garden. The proposed site of the reservoir is is in the paddock behind them.
Photo: Ōtaki Today

“It’s going to be only metres away from us, and seven metres high,” Carma says. “For Gloria especially, it will block out any view she has.”

Both say they knew a reservoir was being planned, but they had in mind a pond or lake. Someone came to their homes late last year but neither was home.

“It was told to my son and Gloria’s grandson ‘We’re testing for a reservoir’.  We never thought much more about it.”

Then early last month they were shown images of what they describe as a huge water tank and told work would begin in April.
The size, location and timing came as a complete surprise as they say they hadn’t been consulted.

“I’ve talked to a real estate agent and been told I can expect at least $50,000 less for my house because of this eyesore,” Carma says.

Meantime, KCDC organised an information session on March 4 at Waitohu School. 

The session gave locals an opportunity to see what was planned and discuss it with council staff, councillors and community board members. However, it soon became clear that those attending, numbering about 40, were angry and wanted more than an informal look at diagrams and one-on-one chats with staff and elected members.

Some demanded a proper public meeting, which was agreed to on the spot by Deputy Mayor Lawrence Kirby. Lawrence read the mood of the ensuing meeting, apologising for what he said was the council “dropping the ball”.

“Clearly we haven’t consulted and communicated well enough in this case,” he said.

When questioned about why residents weren’t told about negotiations for the purchase of the land on a rural subdivision late last year, he said the council was bound by issues of commercial sensitivity.

Council engineer Nick Urlich said the site was chosen as the most suitable in Ōtaki.

“Modelling reports have shown that at a contour of 52m for a top water level, we can supply that reservoir from existing pumps in Tasman Road and Rangiuru Road, and maintain pressures within Ōtaki and provide the fire flows that are insufficient at the moment.”

He said when engineers looked at a site wide enough to put a reservoir on, not too steep, out of earthquake zones and close enough to the existing network, the site was the most viable.

He said having a reservoir further away than is proposed would reduce the energy in the pipeline and would mean having to build a new bore and a new water treatment plant as well as the reservoir.

Dave Moore, who also lives in Speranza Avenue, told the meeting his big criticism was the lack of consultation.

“This project has been foisted on us without any prior knowledge or consultaiton,” he said. “The council has not taken the community into their confidence, they haven’t explained up until three or four weeks ago what was going to happen or what they were planning to do.”

He said the size of the reservoir was a big issue, especially for neighbours who were only 25m away.

The council’s group manager infrastructure services, Sean Mallon, said surveyors and engineers were looking at how much further back on the site the reservoir could be moved to mitigate its impact on nearby houses. He said it could be moved at least four metres but a greater distance was being investigated.

WORKS: The map above shows where pipes will be laid under the roads from the pump station in County Road, along a section of Old State Highway 1 and along Te Manuao Road.

KCDC diagram

“[Four metres] doesn’t sound like much, but it does give us a better platform in front of it to create a higher bund so it’s more hidden and can be planted better.”

The bund would be 2m high and planted on three sides with native trees offering another 2m when planted, growing to about five metres.

Earthworks were due to start this month (April). They include levelling the area where the reservoir will be built, installing stone columns to strengthen the ground, and building the earth bund.

The council will tender soon for a contractor to build the reservoir, with construction due to begin later in the year. It’s expected to take about 18 months to build.

The reservoir will be partly funded through a $29 million grant from the Kāinga Ora Infrastructure Acceleration Fund.




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Local anger at reservoir plans

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