Otama Rural Water Supply Scheme

The Future of the Scheme

Otama Rural Water Supply Scheme users are being given the chance to decide the future ownership and management of the scheme in an upcoming referendum.

The referendum is the culmination of over 15 months of discussions between the Gore District Council and Otama Rural Water Scheme Committee about governance and management of the scheme.

Historically, the Council has managed and maintained the scheme on behalf of the committee carrying out work such as responding to faults and leaks, water testing and liaising with users.

Under the Local Government Act 2002 the Council is considered the owner of the scheme.

The scheme committee wants to severe it ties with the Council. It proposes to create a new company to own the scheme and get a private contractor to operate it.

The referendum will ask scheme users if they want the Council to continue ownership of the scheme, and the day-to-day management and maintenance, or if they want to go with the committee’s new management structure.

Otama Rural Water Supply Scheme quick facts

The scheme supplies untreated water to 253 connections on 210 farms in the Gore District.

There is 239km of pipeline.

The water comes from a bore next to the Mataura River, at the Pyramid Bridge.

Numerous homes, as well as two schools and a marae, use the untreated water.

Historically, the Council has managed the scheme on behalf of the Otama Rural Water Supply Scheme Committee. This includes repairing leaks, invoicing users, water quality testing and managing boil water notifications

The scheme is registered with the Ministry of Health in the Council’s name and we hold the consent to draw the water.

The scheme committee wants to cut its ties with the Council, create a new company to own the scheme and get a private contractor (at this stage unspecified who that may be) to operate it.

Legislation (Local Government Act 2002) dictates that water schemes managed by a council as at 1 July 2003, and supplying more than 200 consumers, must remain in the control of that council.

To change ownership will require a Local Members’ Bill. It must be sponsored by the local Member of Parliament.

A poll of scheme users, run under the Local Electoral Act, is being held to determine whether

  • The Council should own, govern and manage the scheme in the future, or
  • The scheme should be owned by a company whose shareholders are scheme users and managed by parties other than the Council (as proposed by the existing committee).

A majority vote for the company ownership structure will then trigger the process for the Local Members’ Bill to Parliament.

If the poll was in favour of continued Council governance and management no Parliamentary action would be necessary.

The Cost

The water scheme committee has spent $36,300 on legal fees to date. This has been paid from the scheme’s financial reserves of $430,000.

The Council has spent $4600 on legal fees.

The cost of the poll and the Local Members’ Bill, should it proceed, will be borne by scheme users, as resolved by the Council at its meeting on 4 April.

The Options

The Council and the scheme committee agreed to a template to present their options to scheme users.

It addresses questions around scheme ownership, water quality and consumer health responsibilities, costs of any changes to governance and continued operation of the scheme and communication with consumers.

The options will be posted to all consumers and there will be a public meeting where both parties can present their case and answer questions. Voting papers will be distributed after this meeting.

The Poll

There are two electoral rolls – a residential roll and a ratepayer roll. A person can be on only one roll.

Those eligible to vote are:

  • People on the parliamentary electoral roll whose residential address is serviced by the scheme. They will be on the residential roll.
  • The ratepayer of a property serviced by the scheme who lives elsewhere.  They must apply to be put on the ratepayer roll, or they can nominate someone else to become a ratepayer elector.

Poll and Electoral Roll Public Notice 

Timeline

  • Friday 7 April – electoral rolls open
  • Friday 5 May – electoral rolls close
  • Friday 12 May – letters sent to all eligible voters with information about the poll, the two options and notice of a public meeting
  • Week starting 22 May – public meeting
  • Friday 9 June – voting document delivery begins via postal service
  • Saturday 1 July – postal voting closes at 12 noon

Managing the Scheme

The Council believes it is important to let people know how we manage the scheme and what happens in situations when the water quality is compromised.

It is important to realise the water in the scheme is untreated and therefore only for stock. However, we know a large number of people use the water for their domestic supply.

The water is not continuously monitored. It comes directly from the Pyramid Well, located next to the Pyramid Bridge, which traverses the Mataura River.  While the water from the well is generally of a good quality, given it is not treated or continuously monitored we cannot guarantee water quality at all times.

How does the Council know if E-coli is in the water at the Pyramid Pump Station?

  • A weekly water sample is taken from the Pyramid Pump Station.
  • The water sample is analysed for E-coli at the Watercare Laboratory, in Invercargill. This process takes approximately 24 hours.
  • If there is E-coli present in the sample taken, the laboratory is required to notify us immediately. The Council then issues a boil water notice.

Can the Council guarantee the quality of the water at all times?

  • No – as the water in the scheme is not treated and is not continuously monitored, we cannot guarantee the quality of the water at all times.
  • With water samples collected only weekly it takes 24 hours to get the test results. This means there is a risk E-coli could be in the water supply for a number of days before we are aware of it.

What should I do if I use the scheme water for domestic purposes?

  • The scheme is designed as a stock water scheme and we do not recommend its use for human consumption. However, if you decide to use the water in your home we strongly recommended you install an appropriate domestic water treatment system.

Why is a boil water notice issued and when is it lifted?

  • A boil water notice is issued to the scheme users as a precaution to help prevent any user becoming ill from the E-coli in the water.
  • A boil water notice means all water intended to be used for cooking or drinking should be boiled for at least one minute before use.
  • We take daily water samples at the site until the results show E-coli is absent in the water supply.
  • The boil water notice can be lifted after three consecutive daily tests show an absence of E-coli.

How are scheme users notified about the boil water notice?

  • We notify scheme users when the boil water notice is activated and when it is lifted using the following  channels:
    • We send out an email and text alert to scheme users. This goes to all users who are registered on our scheme alert database.
    • An urgent notification is aired on Hokonui Gold 92.4 and CaveFM 106.4 radio stations.
    • A public notice is placed in the Ensign newspaper.
    • We have an urgent alert on the home page of our website and display information on our water and public notices page of our website
    • We post a notice and updates on our Facebook page.

What can I do to ensure I get a notification?

  • To ensure your email and cellphone details are on our database you can either
    • Phone our 3 Waters team on (03) 209 0330.
    • Email us at info@goredc.govt.nz with the subject line Otama Rural Water Scheme Information Update.
    • Private message our Facebook page.

What can I do to ensure the water is safe following a boil water notice?

  • After a boil water notice is lifted, there is still the potential for E-coli to be present in your water tanks. Below are some safe chemicals that can be added to the water to remove any E-coli and still be safe enough to drink.
    • HTH tablets – These are small tablets that can be added to the tank to add chlorine to the water to help kill E-coli. It is commonly used in swimming pools.
    • Talk to your local hardware stores or stock firms about a product called GeoSil150. This product can be added to the tank water to kill the E-coli.

Gore District Council 29 Bowler Avenue Gore P: 03 209 0330 F: 03 209 0357 E: info@goredc.govt.nz