There is an audible sound of rushing water beneath one of Wellington’s central streets after a sinkhole opened up, forcing the closure of the footpath.
Wellington Water has closed a section of Manners St outside Kiwibank and cordoned off the area due to the hole, and several workers are on site.
Bricks have been removed from the footpath and water can be seen rushing beneath the surface of the street.
Wellington Water has put a temporary clamp on the pipe from which water is streaming in order to prevent more damage and options for permanent repair are being assessed.
“The excavation process will begin once urgent markouts and traffic control are in place.”
Wellington’s ageing water infrastructure
Wellington loses 40 to 50 per cent of its water every day to leaks in the pipe network, and the region’s water pipes have hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past few years, plagued by leaks, overflows and burst water mains.
Some pipes are 120 years old and deteriorating in combination with blockages from wet wipes, fats and oils.
Wellington Water chief executive Tonia Haskell revealed recently the cost of fixing Wellington’s decrepit water network will be “a billion dollars a year, every year, for ten years”.
Haskell told Newstalk ZB’s Wellington Mornings with Nick Mills the massive cost is a sign of chronic underfunding for the capital’s water network.
“It’s an eye-watering number, and shows you the level of underinvestment and what needs to be done to catch up.”
She said patching the leaks in the network was like a game of “whack-a-mole”, with contractors trying to swing the hammer all over the city.
“If we had the money, we would fix all of it.”
The ideal renewal rate for the water authority is to replace 100km of pipes every year - but Haskell says there is a limit to what can be realistically completed, given that replacing all the pipes would take kilometres of roadworks and billions of dollars.
The beleaguered Let’s Get Wellington Moving transport plan, Te Ngākau Civic Square, upgrades to social housing, rising insurance costs and earthquake risks are all putting pressure on the council’s finances.
Haskell said it was not her job to say where the money would come from.
“Our job is to advise the councils who are our customers at the moment.”
Vita Molyneux is a Wellington-based journalist who covers breaking news and stories from the capital. She has been a journalist since 2018 and joined the Herald in 2021.