Incoming Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown has written to the chairperson of Watercare, Margaret Devlin, advising that all work on Three Waters should stop. He has issued similar advice to Auckland Council chief executive officer Jim Stabback.
“Auckland households are heading into an economic and fiscal storm and Watercare and Auckland Council must keep water charges and rates as low as possible,” Mr Brown said.
“Central government’s Three Waters proposal was opposed by the previous mayor and Auckland Council governing body and is opposed by the new ones – and I promised in the election campaign to stop it.
“The proposal has not been passed by Parliament and after last weekend’s local government elections throughout the country has no chance of proceeding this side of next year’s general election.
“It is not in the best interests of Watercare, its shareholder or its customers for it to spend any more money on the doomed proposal – and that is also true of Auckland Council.
“What money Watercare or Auckland Council might have spent on Three Waters should be returned to Auckland households in the form of lower water charges and rates than would otherwise be charged.”
Mr Brown also asked Watercare for a briefing on the Watercare Central Interceptor project against original project milestones. In particular, he has asked for information on any delays in timelines, changes in costs to budgets, and reductions in scope from the original contracts. He has also asked if there is anything he can do as Mayor to reduce barriers to progress.
The full text of Mr Brown’s letter follows:
Thank you for the work you do for the people of Auckland. In general, Aucklanders appear satisfied with the essential services Watercare offers. Please maintain a focus on the delivery of your core services in accordance with the Council’s expectations.
In the coming months, I will write to you formally setting out my expectations in relation to your Statement of Intent. Be assured, I have no plans for any substantial changes to Watercare or how you operate.
Nevertheless, in the meantime, there are several important priorities and expectations I must bring to your attention. These reflect my mandate as Mayor, the strong messages I have heard from Aucklanders and the newly elected Council.
Auckland households are heading into an economic and fiscal storm over the next 12 months. Family budgets will be tighter than ever. It is essential Auckland Council and its Council-Controlled Organisations (CCOs) do everything they can to trim costs while maintaining service levels.
To this end, Aucklanders and I would appreciate Watercare bringing to bear a strong focus on your head office and other costs, so you can keep water charges down. The last thing Aucklanders need are more costs. The new governing body will be interested in hearing of progress.
A major issue for you is central government’s so-called Three Waters proposal. Auckland Council does not support the Three Waters reforms. Previous Councillors voted overwhelmingly for that position, as did each of Auckland’s 21 local boards. The incoming Mayor and governing body are opposed to the reforms. In more than 300 campaign events, I detected no support for it at all among Aucklanders. I promised in the election campaign to stop it.
The proposal has not been passed by Parliament and after last weekend’s local government elections throughout the country I judge it has no chance of proceeding this side of next year’s general election.
It is therefore not in the best interests of Watercare, its shareholder or its customers for it to spend any more money on those reforms. As Mayor, I expect that you will not be unnecessarily spending your resources on assisting or preparing for Three Waters reforms that are unlikely to happen. That is also true of Auckland Council to which I have given the same advice.
Any money that might have been spent on Three Waters can be better spent or be returned to Auckland households in the form of lower water charges.
I am also concerned about progress on the Central Interceptor project being delivered by your organisation. I would appreciate – and so would Aucklanders – an update.
I would be grateful for your advice, by the end of this week, on any changes that have taken place from the original project scope endorsed by the Council, including any changes in timelines, changes to costs and budgets, reductions in scope from the original contracts, and your current expectations around final delivery, key milestones and costs.
If there has been any reduction in scope, please describe any loss in future performance and provide me with any advice on how I can assist you in removing any barriers to the successful completion of the project.
Thank you for your attention to these matters. I look forward to working with you.
Mr Brown also met today with incoming councillors Lotu Fuli, Maurice Williamson and Julie Fairey to discuss how they would like best to contribute to delivering the change Aucklanders have demanded.