Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Monday, September 04, 2006


Can we cook it? Katipo cafe keeps the fires burningIt's a strange time when merely being able to offer food is a selling point (as this sign outside Katipo Café shows). But that's been the effect of the gas outage, with some places offering reduced menus, some having to cut bookings, and some having to close for days on end.

According to the latest update, Manners Mall and Courtenay Place are back on, and as early as Friday night, Cuba street was largely unaffected. The northern end of the CBD is still gasless, though, and some places may still be days away from getting service again.

It's certainly a disaster for the hospitality industry, and the calls for compensation are definitely justified. However, it seems a bit much to extrapolate this to Wellington being "regularly held to ransom by gas, water, power and transport vulnerabilities". Regularly? When was the last time this happened?

It's also easy enough to call for more to be spent on infrastructure, and while there's certainly a case for continued investment and maintenance, just how much would have to be spent to guarantee that something like this could never happen again? If this was all caused by poorly maintained water mains (a burst water pipe was the original cause of the problem), then it might be easy enough to step up maintenance to prudent levels.

But what sort of "plan B" would be possible? Duplicating the CBD gas pipelines - all 30km of them? I don't think that "spending less on sculptures" would pay for that (as the restaurant Association suggests), or that it's got anything to do with state highways (as the Regional Chamber of Commerce digresses). Maybe it's up to the hotels and restaurants to have electricity backup for hot water and cooking. In the meantime, support your local restaurants when the gas comes back, and let's hope none of them are forced out of business by their losses.

Update: here's the latest news, as of 3pm Monday.

With the exception of 50 sites, Southern CBD (bound by Willis, Dixon, Courtney Place, Kent Tce, Cable, & Jervois Quay) most sites are now back on gas. Once back on some sites are experiencing pressure and supply problems, which are being worked on as they are reported.

Powerco advise that Central CBD (bound by Featherston, Hunter, Customhouse Quay, and Johnston plus Queens Wharf) is their next priority. Removal of the water likely to complete by close of business today, with purging and testing required after that. Individual customer site visits to relight equipment will begin after the pipeline has meet satisfactory testing and gas re-introduced into the pipeline. ETA for repair unknown.

Powerco continue working on Northern CBD (bound by - Featherston, Lambton Quay, Thorndon Quay, Bunny, Customhouse Quay, and Johnston) with an ETA for that repair also unknown. Powerco advise this could now be as late as Thursday.


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