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Statement From Mayor Phil Goff On Three Waters Reform Proposal

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says he understands and supports the government’s objectives in reforming New Zealand’s water supply and wastewater systems.

“These are vital services and there is an urgent need to reform and improve them to ensure quality and efficiency of services, which requires economies of scale,” he said.

“However, it is important when tackling these challenges that we don’t impose a one-size-fits-all situation and that we preserve the accountability and responsiveness of water supply entities to their communities.

“Auckland, which provides water services to nearly 1.7 million people through Watercare, has already gone through an amalgamation process and is already larger than the proposed new water entities for the rest of the country.

“It is already increasing investment in water services to ensure resilience of supply and quality with council’s 10-year Budget increasing investment by $4 billion over the next decade, from $7.1 billion to $11.1 billion.

“Watercare has engaged the services of the Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS) to use this investment and improve its own management to take Watercare from the best performing water services provider in New Zealand to matching the productivity standards of the best water entities in the United Kingdom.

“Council is not convinced that amalgamation would improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Watercare’s operation as WICS suggests but would likely require cross-subsidisation by Auckland water ratepayers of regions it was amalgamated with.

“It would also risk taking Watercare’s focus off addressing critical issues around water supply and wastewater in Auckland, to tackle inadequate infrastructure in regions beyond Auckland,” he said.

“Most serious, however, are issues around the water reform’s proposed governance structure. Watercare is currently independent in its operational management from Auckland Council but is accountable through requirements around its Statement of Intent and consistency with Council’s water strategy to elected representatives and the community.

“The reform proposed is complex and confused on governance and does not ensure responsiveness and accountability.

“There is a risk with water services in a separate entity with little or no accountability to Council that Auckland’s priorities and growth needs will not be met.

“Council is also concerned that the water supply entities proposed would be more easily privatised by a future government, with a $10 billion investment made in Watercare by Auckland residents passed across to a profit-making entity.

“We are keen to keep working with government to address these concerns and explore alternative models for Auckland including other ways to raise investment to meet the needs of renewal of other infrastructure and new assets to cater for Auckland’s growth needs,” Mayor Goff said.

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