Over $200k a month spent on generators amid Auckland wastewater woes

Auckland's water provider Watercare has revealed it's costing between $200,000 and $250,000 a month to power generators to 10 sites across the city, amid breaks to its wastewater pipes after severe storms lashed the region.

Watercare's northern networks operations manager Tim Scheirlinck said the generators are powering bypass pumps as part of a temporary solution to prevent overflows.

"We estimate we're spending between $200,000-$250,000 a month on generators across these 10 sites. This is reducing each week as we find ways to remove generators from sites," he told 1News.

He said the broken pipes are primarily in the north and west parts of the city.

"Installing generators is the quickest way to restore service, but as they can be noisy for neighbouring residents, we are looking for ways to remove them as soon as possible. These include looking for opportunities to connect to existing power sources, some of which may be at our customers' properties."

He said there are currently about 70 breaks in Auckland's wastewater network where landslides have broken public wastewater pipes after the Auckland Anniversary floods and Cyclone Gabrielle.

Portaloos have been sitting on the edge of Hadfield Street for almost a week.

Watercare has set up other temporary solutions across Auckland such as providing portaloos to homes disconnected from sewer lines.

"We have supplied about 20 portable toilets across five sites, for the few properties where temporary solutions could not collect their wastewater. We are looking at better alternatives to these portable toilets in the short-term.

"We're also assessing medium-term solutions to connect these properties back to the network as soon as possible."

Scheirlinck couldn't say how much the portaloos cost but Prestige Loo Hire, one of the companies providing the toilets, estimates $25 per week, plus servicing costs per unit.

A large generator on Hadfield Street in Beach Haven.

It comes as residents of one of the 70 affected sites, Hadfield St in Beach Haven, told 1News most residents supplied with portaloos aren't using them.

The portaloos were delivered to the kerbside for about 12 residents a week ago. Those 1News spoke to said there was no point using them if they are positioned next to the road.

"I know that the people down the right of way aren't using theirs, because they are not going to walk up to the top of their drive to use it," resident Sharon Pidgeon, who also lives down a steep driveway, said.

Pidgeon said a portaloo was delivered for a red-stickered house next door, where no one lives.

She said she was starting to feel "locked in" due to the ramps placed over their driveway in early February — which made driving in and out difficult for her and her husband.

Another resident Jackie Neeve said she doesn't know anyone who's using the portaloos.

Worse still, Watercare doesn't expect a proper fix for another year.

"We expect it will take at least a year to complete permanent repairs across our wastewater network. This is because we need to scope and plan repairs, engage contractors and in some cases seek consents before work can start. It's important to note that we're already looking at alternatives to the current solutions in place to refine them and minimise any customer impact," Scheirlinck told 1News.

He said issues that have customer or environmental impact — "like we have at Hadfield St in Beach Haven — are our highest priority to permanent repairs".

Auckland Council on storm impacts

A broken pipe in the slip below Hadfield Street.

In a budget update yesterday, Auckland Council said the storm and cyclone impacts will make the task of balancing the council's Annual Budget 2023/2024 even harder.

"The council is currently consulting on this budget and has proposed to reprioritise capital expenditure and provide additional operating costs in response to these events," a statement said.

"Industry constraints mean it is unlikely that the capital investment for the council group will be much higher than the $2.8 billion currently planned for 2023/2024. However, storm-related asset renewals will likely delay other high-priority investment forward into the following year.

"Therefore, it is likely the bulk of the need for additional capital investment and funding will occur from the 2024/2025 financial year onwards."