A civil contracting firm has become the first to be convicted of stealing water from Auckland’s supply network, and has been fined $4900.
Watercare said Powerhouse Civil took significant volumes of water through fire hydrants in March and again in May 2020, despite being warned after the first instance.
Auckland Council’s water company took the prosecution amid rising numbers of suspected water thefts, which have doubled in three years.
The Drury-based firm admitted four charges and was convicted in the Auckland District Court for breaches of the 2002 Local Government Act, the 2015 Auckland Council Water Supply and Wastewater bylaw, and the 1956 Health Act.
Auckland mayor Phil Goff says he hoped the prosecution would send a strong message and clear reminder that theft from the network will not be tolerated.
“When someone illegally accesses our water network, the potential for our drinking water to be contaminated by backflow poses a serious health risk,” Goff says.
Watercare dealt with most illegal takings through settlements, and has recovered nearly $1 million dollars from 359 instances over the past three years.
In one case, a firm used 18 million unpaid litres, meaning the company would owe about $28,620.
Theft from hydrants can also affect a neighbourhood’s water pressure, as well as restricting flow available for fighting fires.
It’s not possible to provide an exact figure for the volume of water stolen, but the number of known cases rose from 70 in 2018 to 178 in 2020.
A recent Watercare board report showed 105 reported cases so far in 2021, with 48 confirmed and charged for, and 57 still under investigation.
It said more critical than the loss of revenue was the risk to public health posed by unauthorised connections to the network, into which contamination could flow.