Auckland Council has provided initial feedback to the government on its proposal for three waters reforms. The feedback acknowledges that the water sector faces challenges across the country, and that it would benefit from reforms at a national level.
However, the council has raised a number of concerns with the proposed reforms, as well as areas where it believes further discussion is required.
Key points of the council’s feedback to government
- The council does not support the governance and ownership model proposed, which removes democratic accountability and the loss of direct control by councils over water service entities. Councillors voted overwhelmingly for this position at a governing body meeting on 23 September; in addition, Auckland’s 21 local boards are all opposed to the governance arrangements set out in the government’s proposal.
- The council supports some aspects of the reform proposal, including the need to:
- lift standards of water supply and quality and wastewater treatment across New Zealand
- introduce an economic regulator to improve efficiency and productivity, and ensure appropriate oversight (noting that this can apply to Watercare without amalgamation
- enable greater investment in water service infrastructure through alternative funding and financing arrangements
- achieve greater scale and capability in the delivery of water services (outside of Auckland, which already has the necessary scale and capability).
- The council is strongly of the view that the governance arrangements of any Water Service Entity that includes Auckland reflect the proportionate investment in the assets and liabilities made by the people of Auckland, and the proportionate size of Auckland’s population.
- Aucklanders should through their elected representatives, maintain majority control over their assets and service delivery.
- Auckland Council supports a water service entity model, like the current council-controlled Watercare model, where real ownership continues to reside with councils and where the new water entity is required to follow relevant council strategies such as long-term plans.
Auckland Council also sought further engagement and information on the reform in areas such as stormwater integration and how the reforms will address the impacts of climate change.
The council has indicated that it wants to continue to work with the government to consider alternative arrangements that could better meet both the government’s and council’s objectives.
It unanimously supported the position that the reform is not made mandatory, and that councils are able to make the final decision on whether to ‘opt-in’ to or to ‘opt-out’ of the government’s final proposal.
The council also agreed that it will consult with Aucklanders on any final proposal it receives from government.
The council’s feedback to government was agreed at a meeting of the Governing Body on 23 September, during which feedback from local boards and mana whenua was also considered.
The full report from this meeting can be read here and the minutes can be read here. Mayor Phil Goff has also written to Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta outlining the council’s feedback. Read the Mayor's letter here.
The government’s Three Waters Reform Programme
Over the past four years central and local government have been considering the issues and opportunities facing the system for providing for and managing the three waters across the whole of New Zealand (drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater). This has resulted in a Three Waters Reform Programme, which proposes to create four new independent water service entities, that have scale, expertise and a greater ability to borrow to fund much needed investment. You can read more here:
- Department of Internal Affairs website
- Better water website – the government’s campaign information
- A new system for three waters service delivery – DIA programme map
- Local Government NZ infographic.
Auckland’s water services and delivery
Delivery of water services in the Auckland region is jointly managed by Auckland Council and Watercare, with a small pocket of drinking water and waste water provision to Papakura residents by Veolia. Watercare is a Council-controlled organisation where council is the owner but Watercare are responsible for the day-to-day delivery of the services.
Watercare provides water and wastewater services to 1.7 million Aucklanders, supplying more than 400 million litres of water to Auckland 27 sources, and disposing of around 409 million litres of waste water every day.
Auckland Council’s Healthy Waters department works closely with Watercare and manages the region’s storm water network.
Following receipt of feedback from local authorities across New Zealand, the government will determine the next steps for its reform proposals. This will include the timeframes and responsibilities for any council decision-making and community or public consultation.