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Mayor Goff Asks For Water Consent To Be Added To COVID-19 Recovery Bill

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff will appear at the Environment Select Committee on Monday morning to ask that Watercare’s Waikato River water take consent be included as project number 12 on the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Bill 2020 (“the Bill”), to support Auckland’s recovery from COVID-19. He will be accompanied by Councillor Linda Cooper (Chair of our Regulatory Committee and the Liaison Councillor for Watercare) and Chair of the Independent Māori Statutory Board, David Taipari.

In 2013, Watercare lodged a consent with the Waikato Regional Council to take an extra 200 megalitres of water to cater to increasing population demands in Auckland. However, after seven years of waiting, deficiencies in the legislation mean the application is still 106th in the queue to be considered.

Mayor Goff will on Monday request that the select committee allow that consent to be added to the Bill to ensure Auckland is not waiting another decade before the application is heard.

“Auckland is experiencing a 1-in-200 year drought event. If insufficient rain falls through winter and spring, by summer, severe water restrictions could be needed affecting people and businesses.

“Our economist estimates up to 14,000 jobs could be affected by limitations on water use. We can’t afford that sort of disruption as we recover from the economic effects of COVID-19. This will have a negative impact not only Auckland, but regionally and across the country.

“That is why I am urging the select committee and Parliament to ensure that the consent applied for seven years ago is included in the Bill, rather than possibly waiting another decade to be heard. While measures are being taken to reduce water demand and use every possible source of water supply, the Waikato River is likely to offer the best and fastest way to tackle the potential crisis caused by the drought.

“Watercare is confident that the additional take from the river will have minimal effects on the water flow and not cause environmental damage. Auckland Council and Watercare also accept that if we draw more water from the river, we need to contribute more to restore the river and the quality of its water.

“Council welcomes the fact that Waikato local authorities and local iwi would be represented on the hearing panel, which would consider the resource consent application,” said Mayor Goff.

Councillor Linda Cooper says, “New Zealand’s biggest city has a critical role to play in supporting the country’s COVID recovery effort, but the drought is putting that at risk. That’s why it is crucial that this consent is fast-tracked and why, alongside Mayor Goff, I’m asking the select committee to enable that as quickly as possible.”

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