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Petone's First 100 Years (1940)


Petone Water Supply.

The present excellent water supply of the Petone Borough, was inaugurated in 1902, that is, the gravity scheme from the Korokoro stream, but the history of the movement to establish a water supply goes back to the early days of the Town Boards when schemes were suggested for providing a supply from various sources and a good deal of correspondence went on between Petone and Wellington, on the subject of tapping the Wainui supply, which passes along the foreshore.
These schemes embraced both a full supply, and a supply for fire prevention only. The question was somewhat delayed owing to the discovery that artesian water could be most cheapty provided and nearly every house in the borough had either a well of its own, or else made arrangements to be supplied from a neighbour. An artesian supply, led into underground tanks, at some street corners gave a supply for limited fire fighting, the water being pumped by a manual engine.
In June, 1901, however, a disastrous fire occurred at the corner of Victoria Street, the Victoria hotel, and Mr. Leighton's boot shop, on the opposite corner, where a motor garage now stands, were totally destroyed, and Messrs. Mills and Ryder's premises very badly damaged. This intensified the agitation for an efficient high-pressure supply.
The first move had been made in May, 1899, when a joint inspection of the Belmont stream in Lower Hutt was made by the Mayors of Lower Hutt and Petone, with a view to a joint scheme. This proposal was carried forward some distance, but as was the case in most proposals for joint schemes, Lower Hutt dropped out, and left Petone to carry-on on its own. There were, however, on the Petone Council a number who favoured the Korokoro stream. Eventually, however, in February, 1901, the decision went to Belmont, and arrangements were put in hand to purchase the water rights over the stream from Mr. Speedy. Then came an action by the Lower Hutt Borough Council, which embittered relations between the two boroughs for many years after.
Fully aware of the intentions of the Petone Borough, the decision to purchase the rights having been made in open Council, the Lower Hutt Council secretly bought up the water rights which, though the Council never used, it continued to hold to the exclusion of Petone. In April, 1902, the Lower Hutt Council made an offer to discuss the question, which was curtly declined by Petone.
Belmont then being out of the picture, the question of a supply source was re-opened. Koro Koro had a disadvantage inasmuch as it was realised that the Woollen Company might be able to prove a claim to riparian rights over the stream. A report on this question had been obtained in May, 1901.
Fresh inquiries were made from the City Council regarding a supply from the Wainui mains, and an inspection was made of the Whakitiki stream at Upper Hutt. This source was strongly favoured by Mr. J. W. McEwan, who afterwards became Mayor.
Another proposal was to pump water from the Koro Koro stream from a spot on the seaward side of the Woollen Company's factory
Ultimately the high level Koro Koro scheme was approved, provided amicable arrangements could be made with the Woollen Company.
The Company's conditions were that the Council should construct a lower reservoir for the exclusive use of the Company and the Council should guarantee a daily flow into this reservoir of one million gallons.
There was a sharp division on the Council as to the acceptability of these terms, a majority of the Council being in favour of accepting the terms, the balance being opposed to any compromise, preferring to proceed with the works, and let the Company take legal action if it so desired.
The Mayor, Mr. G. T. London, refused, against the resolution of the Council, to sign the deed of agreement with the Woollen Company. This division of opinion led to the resignation of Councillors Alexander, Fraser, McEwan, Vogel, and Jounnax. The result of the election was a complete victory for the non- compromise party, the Councillors returned being Messrs. Bowles,
Hill, Kidd, Nicholson, and Wakeham. However, the whole effect of the fight was nullified by the neglect of an official. The Company proceeded by way of mandamus and the Council was given a period of time in which to file its defence. The expiring date was overlooked by someone whose duty it was to have kept a careful watch on the matter, and the period expired without the Council having taken the necessary action. The Company was now in a position to make its own terms, and those terms have at times proved costly to the Council. In dry seasons, there is not a surplus of a million gallons in the stream, and therefore water has to be released from the upper reservoir, to the detriment of the needs of Petone, or else alternative means have to be found to satisfy the Company's needs.
In more recent times, Petone established an auxiliary supply by pumping artesian water, and this has proved eminently satisfactory. The water can be pumped into the mains, which lead into a settling tank on the hill-side above the Koro Koro stream. This tank was originally built, as its name implies, to allow the Koro Koro water to settle, and get rid of foreign matter, at times when the creek was in flood.
In still more recent times, the supply has been extended to the Koro Koro district for a household and fire fighting supply.

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