Andrew Dickens: Further proof our cities are always close to disaster

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Fri, 20 Dec 2019, 4:14PM

Andrew Dickens: Further proof our cities are always close to disaster

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Fri, 20 Dec 2019, 4:14PM

Why is there’s always a feeling that the cities in this country are always just an inch away from disaster?

And it’s not just because we’re shaky with active tectonic plates and volcanoes, or exposed islands buffeted by muscular weather. It’s because we flirt with disaster by being as cheap as we can be and having the old “she’ll be right” mind-set.

Whether its Auckland’s power crises from last decade or Havelock’s water poisoning its people or South Dunedin’s gunked up storm drains contributing to flooding.

Today’s disaster is in Wellington, where as we speak raw sewage is flowing into our capitals beautiful harbour after a catastrophic failure.

A wastewater tunnel has collapsed in the Wellington CBD. As a result, the central city’s sewage is discharging into the harbour near the dive platform, and the lagoon at Frank Kitts Park.

This overflow won’t stop for the next few days and it’s poisoning the Harbour from the Port all the way out to point Jerningham. No catching fish. No swimming at Oriental Bay

All inner city residents and office workers to minimise their use of water, to reduce the load on the network and the size of the overflow.  The collapsed tunnel is beneath Willis and Dixon Streets in the CBD and Ghuznee Street is closed so crews can get in to fix it. Buses are cancelled

This was all inevitable. Wellington’s wastewater network is ancient and yet the city has embraced intensification with apartment towers and residences popping up all over the central city.

Part of the reason the infrastructure in the CBD is so under strain is because the infrastructure elsewhere has been unfunded. Why brave the Terrace and Mount Victoria traffic jams if you can live a hop step and a jump from Courtenay Place in a funky apartment. Even if you can’t flush the toilet.

The reaction from ratepayers is telling. One asking why is a $150 million convention centre happening when the city can’t flush its toilets.  Another says having a functioning wastewater system in the city is surely more important than a second Mount Vic tunnel.

With a government considering a big infrastructure spend up on things like roads and rail you do have to ask yourself where is an equivalent infrastructure investment in our water from our various local bodies up and down the country.

And final word comes from a texter who wrote. 

If Wellington Harbour was a farm and the Council was a farmer they’d be straight to the Environment Court right now and slapped with a $200,000 fine.