Matthew Backhouse is a NZME. News Service journalist based in Auckland.

Wellingtonians could face fines over use of water during ban

Wellingtonians who flout the region's outdoor water use ban are being warned for now - but fines of up to $20,000 could follow for repeat offenders.

A total ban on outdoor water use was introduced two weekends ago to ease the strain on the region's dwindling water reserves.

Wellington City Council spokesman Clayton Anderson said 50 warning letters had been sent to residents who had breached the ban.

"All have been for outside use for washing cars, hosing paths, cleaning boats and watering plants," he said.

The council had not yet issued any fines, but repeat offenders would not get off so lightly.

"If they have been dobbed in again, then I'd say our guys would take it seriously and probably issue some kind of fine."

The council has discretion to set the amount of smaller fines, while courts could impose a fine of up to $20,000.

Mr Anderson said the council did not have a uniform fine system in place.

"We can't remember the last time that we've had to impose a fine - because we haven't really had this problem before."

Capacity Infrastructure, which is responsible for water management in Wellington and the Hutt Valley, said Lower Hutt residents were also being issued with warnings.

But in Upper Hutt, infringement notices are being issued in the first instance.

Capacity spokesman Alex van Paassen said three infrinegment notices had been issued, but it was yet to be determined if they would result in fines.

He said there had been a good response to the water conservation message in the region.

"We've been getting calls from people who are concerned when they do see people washing the car or using the hose outside, so people have got right in behind the ban, really."

Businesses which needed water - such as water blasters, house cleaners, painters or window washers - had also got behind the ban.

Mr van Paassen said car dealers and rental companies were not washing their whole fleets, and were washing only the windows and lights for safety reasons.

Golf and bowling clubs were using less water, although one bowling club had to use more ahead of a tournament, and one golf club used more after recent development work on its green.

Wellington's parched sports fields will be watered from today using reserves from the reservoir at the Zealandia wildlife sanctuary in Karori.

Mr Anderson said tankers were filling up at the reservoir and taking the water to a holding pool at Raroa Park. From there, water was being trucked to sports grounds throughout the city.

Grounds with sand beneath the field were the priority. Those fields drained well in winter, but were costly to repair if damaged.

"Basically it's a band aid effect - they're putting on enough water to keep them alive," he said.

"If we let these fields die, it's going to cost a hell of a lot more money than it's costing us now to spray the fields."

Mr Anderson said the water from the Karori reservoir would need a lot of treatment to make it drinkable, so all it was good for was watering fields.

Greater Wellington Regional Council, which is responsible for the region's water supply, said yesterday's water use was down to 126 million litres - below its target of 130 million litres.

But river flow rates indicated levels could be back down to where they were before the recent rain within eight to 10 days.

Only two days of rain are currently forecast in the next fortnight.


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