Knowing where your private infrastructure ends and the public’s begin

A Wellington resident has recently had to foot a $9476 bill for repairs to a lateral private sewer pipe near his property boundary. That’s right, near his property. Wellington City Council policy is that if your lateral sewer pipe is damaged, no matter how far out of your property; no matter which road it is under and who’s trees are growing down into it, you have to pay for the repairs. Warwick Eves, the resident forking out for what would seem to be Council managed infrastructure, is in shock.

When we initially read this story we half agreed with WCC. Technically it is your pipe, it serves your household. Why shouldn’t you have to pay for it? It’s really just a bummer that the public pipe that yours connects to is so far away. However, the more we read the more it seemed to become a grey area. It’s under the Council road; the Council protected trees are growing down and destroying ‘your’ pipe. Does that mean you can dig the road up or cut the tree down? Wellington City Council has certainly backed themselves into a corner on this one. Privately owning infrastructure that is on and under public land and roads with public protected trees out to destroy your ‘privately owned infrastructure’, all for something you would assume your rates paid for.

And yet, look at the rest of Wellington and Auckland, they have completely different policies. Porirua City Council told Stuff “Our policy is that homeowners in Porirua are not liable for repairs to lateral pipes where they join the council main, including under roads.” This is very similar to Auckland City Council’s policy. As you can see from the infograph found here as soon as your lateral pipe goes past the curb of your property you are no longer responsible.

Bottom line: Understand your Council’s policy on this, find out where your private drainage accesses the public drainage and know your rights and responsibilities. Especially if you live in Wellington.

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