The responsibility for maintaining and repairing wastewater pipes that carry wastewater from the house or business to the council main is shared between the homeowner and the Council.

In Christchurch there are three types of wastewater (sewerage) systems - gravity, pressure and vacuum. Most of the properties with a wastewater service are using the gravity system.

If you are not sure which system you are in and you would like to know you can enquire at the Council on (03) 941 8999. A description of how each system works can be found below.


Pipe ownership and maintenance responsibilities

The Council

  • For all three systems the Council owns and is responsible for all wastewater pipes, tanks and laterals, on public land, i.e. from the front boundary of a house on a public street to the front boundary of the house on the opposite side of the street.
  • All wastewater pipes on private property protected by an easement in favour of the Council are owned and will be maintained by the Council. This is usually the main, plus the connections of any laterals to the main, and the portion of lateral covered by the easement (approximately 1 metre in most cases).
  • Wastewater gravity mains owned by the Council which are installed in private land or a Right of Way (ROW), with or without an easement in favour of the Council, will be maintained by the Council. This is usually the main, plus the connections of any laterals to the main, and approximately the first metre of lateral.
  • Pressure wastewater tanks, pipes from the tanks, control panels and  boundary boxes, installed on private land by SCIRT (Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team) for the Council between 2011 and 2017 as part of the Earthquake rebuild work are owned and maintained by the Council.
  • Pressure wastewater tanks, pipes from the tanks to the road (not the pipe from the house to the tank), alarm boxes and boundary boxes, installed where at the time of subdivision the property was in a wastewater constrained part of the City. These are generally in one-off places, and surrounded by properties with gravity connections. If you think you may have one of these you can enquire with the Council.
  • Pressure wastewater tanks, pipes from the tanks to the road (not the pipe from the house to the tank), alarm boxes and boundary boxes, installed in larger subdivisions where the pressure wastewater was agreed as the best wastewater solution for serving the subdivision, e.g. Highsted, Upper Styx, Highfield, North Halswell, South Halswell, South East Halswell, South West Halswell and Hendersons Residential New Neighbourhood areas.

The property owner

  • Some gravity mains on private land are privately owned. They are installed within an easement, and used only by those parties named in the easement documents. They are owned by and will be maintained by the named parties at their expense and effort. These easements are usually set up and agreed upon at the time of property subdivision.

  • Wastewater gravity laterals on private property that serve one property are owned and maintained by the owner of the property that they serve. If the lateral drains across another property, access to the lateral for repairs should not be withheld by the owner of the other property, but they should be approached prior to any repair. 

  • Wastewater laterals that serve more than one property have a shared responsibility for ownership and maintenance. The property at the start of the line owns and maintains the first section of lateral until it is joined by the next property, at which point it becomes shared between the two properties. As extra properties join they are added to the ownership and maintenance from the point at which they connect.

  • Pressure wastewater, the lateral (pipe) from the house to the tank is owned and maintained by the property owner.

  • Some pressure wastewater tanks and associated pipes and control panels are privately owned and maintained.  Examples of this are tanks installed by the owners for properties on the extremes of the Christchurch wastewater network for which there was no other way of servicing them, groups of properties which were on septic tanks but were since provided a pressure main in the street for the properties to connect to, houses downhill of wastewater mains so the wastewater required pumping up to the main.  


What to do if you suspect you have a blockage or your wastewater doesn’t drain away

Please choose the type of system you are connected to from the list below for advice on what to do if you have a problem with your wastewater.

Gravity wastewater system

  • Call a drainlayer, preferably one with CCTV capability as this may help positively identify the cause.
  • Your drainlayer will determine if the blockage is on the private or public (Council) section of the lateral. They will attempt to get your service back, even if only temporarily, and should clean up and disinfect any wastewater overflows on the property to make it sanitary.
  • If the blockage is on the public section of the lateral you will need your drainlayer to get evidence that the cause is a structural fault before approaching the Council for help. If it is a fat blockage or has been blocked by something (e.g. a spoon) that should not have been flushed then the cost to unblock will be at the property owner's expense.
  • All costs for the work above will be borne by the owner (or owners) as the drainlayer has been engaged by and is working for the owner. If the drainlayer or owner provides the Council a DVD of the lateral showing the proof that it is a structural fault on the Council section and the Council reviewer agrees then the costs will be reimbursed. Approximately 70% of blockages in wastewater laterals are found in the private section.

Example of a gravity wastewater system on a private lane:
Example of private lane gravity system


Example of a gravity wastewater system with one property:
example of a gravity wastewater system for one property


Example of a gravity wastewater system with more than one property:
example of gravity wastewater system for more than one property

Pressure wastewater system with Council owned tanks

  • If the alarm is sounding and flashing on the control panel, press the silence button at the very bottom of the box. If it comes back on within an hour call the Council on (03) 941 8999. If it does not come back on, it has reset itself and is working again.
  • If you have wastewater overflowing out of your gully traps, your toilets are not flushing properly, or your sinks or shower etc. are not draining, but the alarm is not sounding and flashing then the problem is with the drainage pipes before (the upstream side of) the tank. The pipes and section of lateral to the tank are privately owned, and if the alarm is not going this means there is no problem at the tank. Call a drainlayer to inspect and rectify.
  • If wastewater comes to the surface between the tank and the boundary it indicates that the pressure pipe is leaking. Please call the Council on (03) 941 8999. 

Example of a pressure wastewater system with Council owned tanks:
example of pressure wastewater system with Council owned tanks

Pressure wastewater system with privately owned tanks

  • Any problems similar to above are the property owner's responsibility, and a drainlayer should be called to rectify.
  • If you suspect that the pump is at fault you should mention when calling that you have a tank and pump and check that the drainlayer has the ability to carry out work on these items. 

Example of a pressure wastewater system with privately owned tanks:
Example of a pressure wastewater system with privately owned tanks

Vacuum wastewater system

  • Call the Council on (03) 941 8999, they will send a maintenance contractor to check that the vacuum system is working first. 
  • If they find that it is, they will advise you to call a drainlayer to check your private lateral.

Example of a vacuum wastewater system:
Example of a vacuum wastewater system


Finding out the rights and responsibilities specific to your property

Your solicitor should have advised you of your rights and responsibilities when you purchased the property. The Certificate of Title to your land should show the ownership of the wastewater pipes and other services in your property, including those in any easement, such as a Private Lane or Private Right of Way.

Most lanes are privately owned – if you live in a lane but are unsure whether it is a private or public road, you should check the Certificate of Title to your land, which clearly marks the boundary between private land, public land and common land. You can also enquire with the Council.

Titles can be ordered through Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) online. Their website has step by step instructions on how to do this.