Auckland Council recently submitted feedback to the government on its proposed three waters reforms, making it clear that while we support the overall objectives – to improve water quality and regulation throughout New Zealand – we strongly oppose any changes that would see Aucklanders lose majority control of our water assets and service delivery.
Aucklanders have invested heavily to build up our water, wastewater and stormwater assets, which are now worth more than $10 billion, with a further $11 billion to be invested through the council’s 10-year Budget. They make up 28 percent of our asset base and 25 percent of total expenditure.
Under the model proposed by the government, Council would have less than 40 percent representation on the regional group that would govern the new water entity. This is despite the fact that 94 percent of the assets of the new entity would come from Auckland, and Auckland would have approximately 92 percent of the population served by the new entity.
Further, this governance group would have no real control or ownership over the new water service entity. Council would no longer directly appoint the new entity’s board or approve the entity’s statement of intent, as it does with Watercare, nor would the new entity have a legislative requirement to give effect to Council’s long-term plans and strategic direction, as is currently required of Watercare.
What this means is a total loss of democratic control, governance and accountability. I do not believe that this is what Aucklanders want.
Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution that it does not support the governance and ownership model proposed. This position is supported by Auckland’s 21 local boards, which are unanimously opposed to the governance arrangements set out in the government’s proposal.
Auckland is already by far the most efficient and effective water supplier in New Zealand. It has already achieved the scale and professionalism in water supply that the government is seeking for the country as a whole. Further efficiencies in Auckland are possible, but they will mainly be driven by greater access to capital and economic regulation rather than from amalgamation or the Government’s proposed governance structure.
We have proposed changes to the government’s model that, if accepted, would allow Aucklanders to benefit from the positive elements of the reform while ensuring that they maintain adequate governance and majority control over their assets and service delivery. We will continue to work with government to ensure that Council’s and Aucklanders’ concerns are met, with the aim of achieving a result that benefits Aucklanders while helping to improve water quality and management throughout New Zealand.