120 days, and a 3 hour fix

A Wellington Water truck turned up on the morning of 23 November and fixed a leak that was first reported to them on 27 July. That’s exactly 120 days. At an estimated 14,400 litres per day, that makes a total of 1,728,000 litres of water down the drain.

The fix took just three hours, and that included resealing the road.

So how much is 1,728,000 litres of water? About enough to fill the Freyberg Pool two-and-a-half times[1]. In dollar terms, people on a residential water meter pay $2.88 per cubic metre. To convert litres to cubic metres you divide by 1,000, so 1,728 cubic metres = $4,976.64.

But the actual cost is way more than that – and I’m not talking the road crew that finally fixed it, or the Council staff who man the complaint lines and their Fixit page.

An email chain forward by another resident, (not even a resident of our street), provided a disturbing insight into the bureaucratic meanderings of the Wellington City Council. Using a personal connection to Councillor Nicola Young, he tried to get something done after the toby had been bubbling for 111 days.

It’s a tiny street, and – in my uninformed opinion – the car owners would be able to find somewhere else to park their cars IF they knew the water leak was being repaired. Can you please check that Council is doing its utmost to sort any associated logistical problems so this scandalous waste of water can be repaired? Council is always so quick to criticise WW, so it would be embarrassing if we were holding up the repair of this major leak.

Email from Nicola Young to Siobahn Procter

For the record, Siobahn Procter is Chief Infrastructure Officer at WCC.

Procter then emailed Mark Ford, Chief Financial Officer at Wellington Water, CCing Zac Jordan, Principal Advisor Resilience Infrastructure and Chris Mathews, Manager Waste, Water & Resilience, both at WCC:

Hi Mark,

I know there has been a lot of traffic about this one -it’s a “social licence” leak that needs fixing….

Three points:

  • … a lot of traffic about this one…” suggests Procter’s known about this for a while.
  • …it’s a “social licence” leak…” Is she really saying, “Oops, people are watching now. Better do something about it.”?
  • And why does a simple toby repair require the attention of the Chief Financial Officer of Wellington Water? One might be tempted to think these people have nothing better to do…

    Still, the arse-kicking drew a response. Two days later, Ian Dennis, Manager Customer Experience (gotta love that title!) at Wellington Water responded to all parties:

    … the team have scheduled the leak repairs for 21 Moir Street, Mt Victoria to be completed on Monday 21 November 2022. Notifications have been sent to customers affected.

    Actually, notifications weren’t sent “to customers affected”, and a good job too because Dennis got the date wrong. Repairs weren’t started (and finished) till Wednesday 23 November 2022. And this despite an earlier email from Dennis (18 October) stating:

    Once we have received Council approval, a letter will be delivered to the residents of Moir Street advising of this road closure and the timeframe for this work.

    I’m tempted to use the words “piss up” and “brewery” in the same sentence but… oh yes, I’ve done so already.

    To summarise, getting a simple toby repaired required input from:

    • An elected city councillor
    • A Chief Infrastructure Officer
    • A Chief Financial Officer
    • A Principal Advisor Resilience Infrastructure
    • A Manager Waste, Water & Resilience
    • A Manager of Customer Experience

    None of whom, I venture to suggest, would be any good at wielding a shovel.

    Still, this isn’t surprising from an organisation so incompetent they “forgot” to fluoridate the drinking water for a year. Or one that spent $354,000 on external public relations contractors — in addition to their three permanent ‘communications’ staff. (That same year, 2020, Wellington City recorded 2,096 sewage spills. Wellington Water’s target was no more than 100 spills.)

    But the final cost of all this is incalculable: credibility. Next time Wellington Water beg us to conserve the stuff, they’ll elicit a “Tui’s billboard” response from me, my neighbours, and anyone who’s been down our street in the last four months…

    Limit outdoor water use this summer. Yeah, right!

    [1] The Freyberg Pool is 33.3m x 13.7m with a depth ranging from 0.8m to 2.4m. Taking an average depth of 1.6m you get 33.3 x 13.7 x 1.6 = 730 cubic metres, or 730,000 litres.

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