Tangled $17 million web of Shotover water pipes

by Peter Newport - Feb 03, 2023

Regular drivers in Queenstown will have noticed what seems to be endless work on the pipes slung under the Shotover Bridge. Crux often asks questions about this type of civil engineering work as the amounts of money can be eye watering and the contractors or designers don’t always get things right.

Currently the new pipes reach a dead end at the SH6 Hawthorne Drive roundabout near Bunnings. They are yet to be connected.

Getting to the bottom of the Shotover pipes story has not been easy and thanks to the Queenstown Lakes District Council for helping us at least partially unravel the puzzle.

Here’s what we have discovered:

  • Fulton Hogan was contracted by the QLDC via a tender process for work to be completed by November 2020 to add some water pipes and remove old pipes from under the Shotover Bridge. The project cost was agreed at $3 million.
  • There were some problems with pipe brackets at both ends of the bridge and some other issues to do with electrical conduits being installed for Aurora Energy. These issues resulted in the work going $1.87 million over budget. The total eventual cost was $4.87 million.
  • The QLDC says that for legal reasons they can’t tell us who picked up the tab for project problems/overruns – the ratepayer or Fulton Hogan or the designers.
  • Aurora Energy's electrical work was paid for by Aurora.
  • The pipes are linked to another project, worth $12.5 million, also being carried out by Fulton Hogan as lead contractor.
  • This other project is called the Shotover Country bore field. It’s a number of new water bores or wells near Old School Road in Shotover Country – right next to the Shotover Bridge.
  • The new Shotover bore field is designed to provide enough drinking water to Shotover Country, Lake Hayes Estate, Ladies Mile and Frankton Flats. The QLDC says the current supply is insufficient due to population growth.
  • The bore field was supposed to be finished last year but is late due to supply problems.

In theory that should have been the end of our questions about the Shotover Bridge pipes. Our questions were prompted by a Crux reader saying that work at the Tuckers Beach end of the bridge had been botched and needed to be done again. The QLDC has denied this and told Crux that it was just the bracket problem. Specifically the QLDC has said:

“Additional brackets and connections were required at both ends of the bridge to address operational issues with the pipework identified after the design stage. For legal reasons the Council is not in a position to disclose any confidential contributions by other parties to the additional costs.” - Source: QLDC January 27, 2023.

Looking a bit rough? One of the bores at the Shotover Country bore field site.

Inevitably this situation raises similar questions in relation to another Fulton Hogan project, the botched Cromwell roundabout.

Is it the designers or the contractors at fault – and who should pay; the contractors, the designers, or the ratepayer/taxpayer?

Sadly, in the case of the Cromwell roundabout and the Shotover Bridge pipes nobody will tell us the answer.

We’ll keep digging. 

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