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Auckland And Waikato Hold Constructive Water Talks

The heads of Watercare, Auckland Council and Waikato Regional Council have agreed to work more closely together on issues of mutual importance, including Auckland’s long-term water supply needs and the health of the Waikato River, following a meeting held in Hamilton on Friday.

The Auckland delegation to Hamilton was led by Mayor Phil Goff and Watercare board chair Margaret Devlin, and received by Waikato Regional Council chair Russ Rimmington, councillors and senior officials.

The two regions have committed to a more enduring relationship going forward, with the next step being a combined meeting to include, among others, Waikato-Tainui and the Waikato River Authority (WRA).

Waikato Regional Council chair Russ Rimmington said, "It was a very constructive meeting and there was general agreement that there shouldn’t be an over-reliance on the Waikato River to meet the needs of an expanding Auckland population.

“With climate change a reality I’m very concerned about the situation being faced by our Auckland neighbours. But I’ve been clear that we must not bleed the Waikato River dry, as has happened with parts of the Murray Darling River in Australia, as a result of poor planning.

"I look forward to working more closely with Auckland to help find enduring, sustainable solutions for fresh water supply," Cr Rimmington said. “I’ve suggested that could include construction of enlarged storage dams and leading the world in harvesting rainwater from roofs through the retrofitting of tanks and requirement for them on new builds, so millions of litres of fresh water isn’t wasted.

"We welcome the opportunity to partner with Watercare and Auckland Council, along with Waikato-Tainui and the WRA, on improving the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River and its tributaries. We all have a part to play in its restoration."

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff agrees that the meeting was a crucial step towards ensuring a more joined up approach between Auckland and the Waikato on an issue vital to the wellbeing of both regions.

“With Auckland facing its worst drought on record, it’s critical that additional supply from the Waikato River is made available in the short to medium term, without sacrificing the health of the awa,” he said.

“Data shows that Aucklanders are some of the most efficient water-users in the country, and our communities are making strong efforts to reduce their use. Yesterday, the 7-day rolling average of water use in Auckland was 408 million litres per day, firmly below Watercare’s 410 million litre target.

“However, even with the significant efforts Aucklanders are making, the record low rainfall we’ve seen in recent months continues to be a serious challenge. If we do not get enough rain in winter and spring, Auckland will face a crisis in water supply this summer. I have instructed Watercare to seek supply from every available water source to head off a potential emergency.

“I appreciate the constructive approach taken by Russ Rimmington. He has communicated clearly the Waikato Regional Council’s willingness to work closely with Auckland to mitigate the drought impact while ensuring the health of the river is prioritised,” said Phil Goff.

At the meeting

From Auckland: Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore, chair of Watercare Margaret Devlin, chair of the Independent Māori Statutory Board David Taipari, Auckland Council Chief of Strategy Megan Tyler, Auckland Council Senior Māori Advisor Otene Reweti.

From Waikato: Waikato Regional Council chair Russ Rimmington, deputy chair Kataraina Hodge, ouncillor Tipa Mahuta, the CEO Vaughan Payne and resource use director Chris McLay.

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