The Local Government Minister says he is disappointed in Wellington and Upper Hutt councils for failing to provide information on how they were dealing with water leakage and shortage issues in the capital.

Simeon Brown wrote to Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau and Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy, after requesting information from the chair of the Wellington Water Committee on what actions shareholder councils were taking to reduce the possible water shortage.

Much of the Wellington region moved to level 2 water restrictions on Wednesday.

Wellington Water said the decision was made due to very high demand putting pressure on the drinking water supply.

The water services regulator, Taumata Arowai, has said it will step in if the capital runs short of water for drinking and sanitary needs while water restrictions are in place.

In a statement, Brown said other councils in the Wellington region were able to provide the requested information by the deadline of 17 January.

“Both mayors failed to respond to the chair of the Wellington Water Committee’s request for this information…,” Brown said.

“This information was needed for the chair’s response to me.”

Brown’s questions to the councils included what they were doing to actively consider how to fix leakage issues, increasing supply, and how the short and medium term activity would be funded.

Brown said he would use his powers under the Local Government Act to formally request the information.

He said he wanted the information that councils were taking their obligations to residents and ratepayers seriously.

“The Wellington region is currently in the midst of water restrictions which may have to escalate as summer continues,” Brown said.

“Water regulator Taumata Arowai is actively preparing to exercise its powers in the event that a water emergency occurs.”

Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau responded to the minister in a statement released on Saturday afternoon.

“Regarding the Minister’s letter sent late on Friday night, we respect the concerns shared by the Minister and it is a shame this confusion has arisen,” Whanau said.

“Wellington City Council will work quickly to provide all information requested by Minister Brown under the Local Government Act.

“I have requested a meeting with the Minister to discuss his concerns and to provide further information.”

Whanau said her council had responded as requested within the deadline set by Mayor Campbell Barry on the draft letter to be sent on behalf of all shareholding councils.

“Had we known that two of the four councils were also providing more detailed appendices to that letter, we would have provided our own.

“Unfortunately, this misunderstanding has given rise to the perception we did not respond or that we don’t take this matter seriously. We did — and we do.”

Whanau added: “Wellingtonians expect central and local government to work together and get on with finding solutions for our water crisis. That is our focus.”

rnz.co.nz with addtional reporting from 1News

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