August 13, 2008

Hospital Reservoir May Cost $4 Million


CAPITAL and Coast District Health Board may have to spend up to $4 million on a new reservoir.

The cash-strapped board is compelled to find the money because Wellington Hospital's emergency water supply would run out after two days if a disaster struck.

The board has agreed in principle to share the cost of a 4.5- million-litre reservoir at the Prince of Wales Park in Mt Cook -- estimated at $12 million -- with Greater Wellington regional council and Wellington City Council.

Capital and Coast chief executive Ken Whelan confirmed that the board would invest in the reservoir.

He acknowledged that the board was short of cash. Last week it announced a deficit of $40.4 million for the financial year ended June.

"If we diverted millions of dollars into city plumbing, that money would have to come out of health services, which would be inappropriate," he said.

"It might be most appropriate for the funding for citywide infrastructure to come via some direct arrangement between government and local bodies."

City council infrastructure director Stavros Michael said a smaller reservoir was a possible alternative.

Many hospitals already had their own emergency water supplies, with bores used in Christchurch and Dunedin. The situation in Wellington was trickier because its water came from outside the city boundaries, he said.

"It is our desire to have water capacity inside the city."

The debate came as the council considered measures to increase and secure Wellington's water supply after population growth placed the city's peak summer supply at risk.

Projected growth levels indicated the risk could only be reduced through additional storage.

The most expensive solution would involve a $142 million dam constructed on the regional council's preferred site in Whakatikei valley, northwest of Upper Hutt. It would secure the water needs for a population of 450,000.

Three other short-term options are being investigated that would maintain a satisfactory water supply till 2012.

* To raise water levels in the Stuart Macaskill Lakes in Te Marua by 13 per cent, to cost $4.5 million.

* To reduce minimum flow in Hutt River at the Kaitoke weir by 200 litres/second to 400 litres/second.

* The development of the Upper Hutt aquifer, which could reduce flows in the Hutt River, at a cost of up to $24 million. This would meet peak demands till 2022.

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