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Plumbers still waiting to fix Wellington water leaks

17 June 2024

Plumbers continue to be sidelined in their efforts to help fix Wellington’s water leaks.

Master Plumbers chief executive Greg Wallace says the plumbing body has been offering to help fix the leaks for months, but is being prevented by bureaucratic excuses.

“Our members have been ready and waiting to help Wellington Water fix the thousands of leaks popping up all over the city for months, but we continue to be blocked. The situation is really a disgrace and an embarrassment.”

Mr Wallace says the plumbers have been given all sorts of excuses why they are unable to help, but the real blockage is that Wellington Water says plumbers are not qualified to work on the public water system.

“Wellington Water says we don’t meet the necessary requirements and therefore can’t be approved to work on the region’s public drinking water, wastewater and stormwater networks.

“They say they have put the requirements in place to protect public health, as work not done correctly has the potential to contaminate drinking water and make people sick. It may be news to Wellington Water, but most people know that plumbers manage the three water systems and make sure they are safe for people every day.”

He says Master Plumbers asked the independent Waihanga Ara Rau Construction and Infrastructure Workforce Development Council (WDC) to determine how the qualification that Wellington Water say plumbers must hold to work on the network – the New Zealand Certificate in Infrastructure Works (Level 3) – compares with the qualification plumbers already hold, the New Zealand Certificate in Plumbing (Level 4).

“The WDC said plumbers would have a higher level of skills and knowledge than an equivalent graduate from the Level 3 qualification.

“We were also advised by WDC that registered plumbers and drainlayers are already working on drinking water networks without having to obtain the equivalent sector qualifications.”

Mr Wallace says an Official Information Act response from Wellington Water advised that only 37 of its staff were qualified (Level 3 or higher) for water leak repair and network work, and that only 41% of all Wellington Water employees responsible for the repair and maintenance of the region’s water network held a Level 3 or higher qualification.

“It is evident Wellington Water thinks the city is better off having treated water go down the drain than to employ plumbers to fix the leaks.”

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