Rodney Local Board member Colin Smith supervises tanker-to-tanker drought relief last summer. Auckland Council says there is no money for similar relief operations for houses on tank water this summer.
Residents who rely on rainwater are being urged to install an extra tank or they could be left high and dry by Auckland Council this summer.
Ongoing drought pressures and Emergency Budget cuts mean that even if household tanks run dry and there are lengthy waits to get them filled, there will be no emergency tankers to boost supplies, as happened last summer.
Council’s Healthy Waters Strategy head, Andrew Chin, said there simply weren’t the resources to mobilise the milk tanker fleet again.
“That cost $1.4 million, which we could absorb normally, but we simply couldn’t underwrite that kind of expense now,” he told last month’s Rodney Local Board meeting.
“The dams are just over 60 per cent full, when they should be closer to 90 per cent. The latest forecast is that we’re going to have a drier than normal spring. It’s our driest period on record.”
With city centre restrictions on outdoor use set to continue, there would be more demand for private water carriers to supply commercial operators, such as housing developers. Mr Chin warned of fewer tankers, more restrictions and potentially even longer queues and wait times.
He said Healthy Waters would be able to provide “welfare water” – standpipes outside community halls where people could fill up 20-litre tanks – as well as revitalise a few former bores and storage dams.
He was also seeking help from anyone with large private bore allocations, such as golf courses or horticultural businesses, and said a new tanker filling station might be possible, but only with Government money.
Warkworth Board member Tim Holdgate said Council had been quick to find an extra $224 million to boost urban water supply and infrastructure when drought struck the city, then dropped $1.4 million off the agenda for rural residents.
“It’s very concerning and the solutions are not great,” he said.
Dairy Flat’s Louise Johnston said it was a bad time to be asking people to put in another water tank.
“They’re expensive. And for rentals, landlords probably don’t have any desire to spend any more money on their properties. It’s quite scary.”
Mr Chin said he heard their concerns, and he understood that the cost of installing a new tank would be too much for many people.
“The number of households that have rainwater tanks as their main water supply is about 50,000 – that’s equivalent to Dunedin,” he said. “And we would never let Dunedin run out of water. Using the words ‘rural residents’ can get people to misinterpret exactly how many people are at risk. It’s quite significant. And it’s a major concern to us how these communities will fare.”
The meeting heard that anyone able to install a new tank should do so now, while there was still rain falling and while Council had waived all application fees, as its process to remove the need for consents for rainwater tanks was being formalised.
Rodney Councillor Greg Sayers agreed after the meeting that anyone who was able to install a new tank should do so quickly, and said the emergency tanker funding should be retained.
“It’s a disaster waiting to happen. The funding should not be stopped,” Cr Sayers says. “It’s a basic human right to have access to clean drinkable water, but Council isn’t planning to come to the rescue of stricken families like it did last summer.
“If people run out this summer, they will be in dire straits.”