our findings and suggested actions

24 April 2019 Chloe Brigden

Saturday 3 June 2017, a young girl in Favona, South Auckland lost her life in an incident involving an uncovered roadside catchpit. The incident marked the second catchpit fatality in five-years - following the death of a man in Wellington.

Mangere MP, Labour's Aupito William Sio, addressed the fatality, saying one death due to a missing drain cover is "one too many".

In both cases, the event leading up to the fatality was linked to the victim seeking to retrieve a personal item dropped nearby. What the victims - and most of the public -are not aware of, is that the depth of a storm drain can surprise you; with most falling between 1m to 9m - making them extremely dangerous if uncovered. 

Having no appetite for risks that compromise the health, safety and wellbeing of staff, customer or the community (Auckland Council Risk Management Framework) Auckland Council and Auckland Transport immediately responded to the tragedy by appointing our WSP Opus’ stormwater experts to carry out a suite of risk-assessments on South Auckland’s catchpits. In addition, they sought the team's advice for safety recommendations for an ongoing, active programme associated with Auckland’s stormwater network. 

Assessing both public and operational safety risks - our team identified factors that influence other key-risks. Upon completing our assessment, we discovered that of the 31,500 catchpits in South Auckland’s urban area - 599 were stolen or had gone missing over a five-year period. Raising the question...What security measures can we adopt to ensure that all stormwater assets are compatible to Auckland Council Risk Management Framework?  

Additional findings revealed that in New Zealand, there are over 23 different catchpit designs depending on regions - James Reddish, Technical Principal for Catchment Management and leader of this particular project wants to know why this is the case..?

“Local authorities have different design standards associated to their catchpits. We believe that by standardising New Zealand’s catchpit design, will not only offer cost-saving benefits but also allow all councils to adhere to current safety recommendations concerning their community and stormwater assets.” Reddish says. 

The outcome of the assessment identified potential improvement to catchpit grate design - making them only openable with a special tool; a response to the 599 stolen catchpits. Additional suggestions included, improvements to a catchpits back entry; and ensuring a safety in design process is undertaken when selecting and locating catchpits. 

James will be presenting his paper, Public Safety at Catchpits - Lessons from Tragedy, at this week's Stormwater Conference. The paper will present the findings of the study so that other asset owners can take-action, with the aim of avoiding similarly tragic events occurring again. 

Here's what you can expect from James' presentation

  • The current practice into public safety and catchpits
  • The outcome of the assessment - including identified potential improvements to catchpit grate design
  • Discussion regarding the education of the community on the hazards associated with catchpits
  • Reviewing maintenance health and safety procedures with consideration of both maintenance staff and the public.
  • Can’t make the event? Be the first to read our findings and suggested actions.  Click here to request the download our whitepaper after the event. 

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wsp Opus Stormwater Conf
Chair of the Water Zealand Stormwater Group Committee, J
ames Reddish, Technical Principal for Catchment Management is one of eight WSP Opus experts that will be presenting at the Stormwater Conference this year. James has over 18-years of experience across the water sector in both New Zealand in the UK. Connect with James on LinkedIn