A council report shows Wellington Water was flailing in the deep end with performance targets before the added pressure of a wastewater pipe collapsing.

The measures are lit up in a sea of red in Wellington City Council's Quarter One report for the 2019/20 financial year.

Furthermore, Wellington Water estimates it needs $600,000 of additional operating funding to clear a backlog of leak jobs.

The median response time for attendance to urgent callouts was 23 hours, falling well short of the one-hour target, between July and the end of September this year.


The target median response time for wastewater overflows was six hours, but the actual time taken ended up being a day.

This poor performance is mirrored across all fault resolution measures for Wellington Water in the report.

It paints a grim picture of ageing infrastructure which was highlighted in dramatic fashion when a wastewater pipe collapsed under Willis and Dixon Sts in the CBD on December 20.

It's estimated five million litres, or two Olympic sized swimming pools, of wastewater flowed into the harbour.

More than 40 per cent of Wellington Water's infrastructure is made of brittle material making it susceptible to movement. It was also hit hard by the 2016 Kaikoura Earthquake.

The increased reporting of leaks was putting the pressure on, Customer Operations Group General Manager Kevin Locke said.

But Locke pointed to all urgent work being responded to in time.

While that may be true for the 2018/19 financial year, it doesn't change the fact the variance for that target in the current year's first quarter is -2202 per cent.


In the last year leak numbers increased by up to 25 per cent across the region.

In July Wellington Water transitioned from City Care to a partnership with Fulton Hogan for maintenance across the region.

"We are transitioning from an old service delivery model to a new one, and we have to manage an increase in work within defined budgets. As the work increases, response times will increase given the same resources," Locke said.

A backlog of about 400 water leak jobs was taken on for WCC, which by late December had reached 550.

Wellington Water estimated it needs $600,000 of additional operating funding to clear the backlog.

"The transition was always going to take time to get up to speed, and the backlog is a consequence of an increase in reported leaks on the network", Locke said.

A wastewater pipe collapsed under Willis and Dixon Sts in Wellington's CBD on December 20. Photo / Georgina Campbell
A wastewater pipe collapsed under Willis and Dixon Sts in Wellington's CBD on December 20. Photo / Georgina Campbell

Wellington Water was in discussions with councils about how to address the increase in leaks and setting service levels and performance expectations, he said.

Mayor Andy Foster said the numbers were "not up to scratch" and put the poor performance down to the bedding in of a new sub-contractor.

"We will be looking very very carefully over the following three months to see whether those performances significantly improve."

Foster said $180m was spent annually on renewal, replacement and maintenance.

That was projected to increase as pipes reached the end of their lives, but stressed the difference between that and ageing.

"We have an ageing population and that doesn't mean the population is at the end of its life and the same is true for water pipes. So they've still got some life in them."

Andy Foster makes a splash

Since the wastewater pipe collapsed a bypass has been put in place and a rāhui lifted, meaning people can again swim in Oriental Bay and paddle and canoe in the inner harbour.

Foster has been snapped taking a dip at Oriental Bay, doubling down on the message the water has been given the all clear.

But not everyone was diving in to join him.

Leeanne O'Donnell, visiting from Auckland, said the situation with the water made her a "wee bit" nervous.

"I'd still probably give it at least a fortnight before I would go."

Millie Dow, a university student home for the summer, wasn't too keen either.

"It hasn't felt too much of a blow but it's a disappointing thing, like that's really gross."

She said she would probably wait until February before braving a dip.

But Wellingtonian Justine Boyd wasn't fazed.

"It looks clean enough, I'm sure it will be fine."

Foster stressed testing for safe swimming levels was very conservative.

"The water's fine, it wasn't even too cold either."