Battle lines over water treatment plant

9:01 am on 22 February 2017

A battle is brewing between two West Auckland suburbs over where a giant new water treatment plant should be built.

Residents in the West Auckland suburb of Oratia are vowing to fight a proposal to build a giant water treatment plant in their neighbourhood.

Oratia residents protesting at the option of building a water treatment plant in their neighbourhood. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Three locations are being considered for the replacement for the 90-year-old Huia water treatment station in Titirangi.

One of the options - in neighbouring Oratia - could result in up to 18 families being evicted from their homes.

Hundreds of Oratia residents packed out the local hall last night, spilling into the car park, to hear from five Watercare executives about their plan.

Parker Road resident Graham Gash, whose family had lived in Oratia for five generations, said it was "an abomination".

"Whatever the outcome, the way it's been handled has already had a profound effect on the psyche of the whole community."

Families on Parker Road had been traumatised by the idea their whole lives were under threat with no prior consultation, Mr Gash said.

Another Parker Road resident, Linda Way, said she could lose her home if the plant was built there. She was also upset at the lack of consultation.

"Nobody's heard anything about it. We only found out two weeks ago. Apparently there's been consultations [within Watercare] about it for the last two years."

Linda Way, centre, said she could lose her home if the plant was built in Oratia.

Linda Way, centre, said she could lose her home if the plant was built in Oratia. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Watercare said the plant was old and leaky and had to be replaced.

It is considering three options: building a new plant on the existing Huia water plant site, constructing one on a nearby empty lot in Titirangi it already owns, or building on a new site on Parker Road where 18 families live.

General manager of service delivery Shayne Curtis said building on the existing site would cost more, because $600 million of planned upgrades to other sites would have to be brought forward in addition to spending $300m on the new plant.

"To ensure that we continue to provide supply to 1.4 million people, we will have to bring forward construction of the next water source, which we don't have consent for at this time."

It was not reasonable to expect Aucklanders to pay for that extra cost, he said.

Building on Watercare's site on Manuka Road, in Titirangi, would require special consent because it was covered in native bush.

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Watercare executives talking to residents about the proposals at a public meeting last night. Photo: RNZ / Brad White

West Auckland Councillors Penny Hulse and Linda Cooper told residents they too were shocked to learn of Watercare's proposal.

But neither councillor would say which option they preferred.

"I don't think we can say a preference. But what we've heard tonight is there's already a designated site in Titirangi," Linda Cooper said.

"We've got to go through the process but it would not be good of us to be pitting our own constituents against one another," she said.

Watercare said it came up with the three options before Christmas but decided to delay the public consultation until after the holiday period was over.

A meeting will be held to discuss the options with Titirangi residents on Wednesday night.

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Photo: RNZ / Brad White

 Oratia residents at a meeting on Watercare's proposal to build a huge water treatment plant in their neighbourhood. 21 February.

The hall was packed and residents spilled into the car park outside. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

 Oratia residents at a meeting on Watercare's proposal to build a huge water treatment plant in their neighbourhood. 21 February.

Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley