Thursday, April 25, 2024

Auckland’s ‘unique’ position at odds with Three Waters reform

Auckland Mayor, Phil Goff says the recommendations of the Three Waters working group, released publicly today, would entrench community ownership and help prevent future privatisation of the government’s proposed water entities – but failed to address Auckland’s “unique” position.

“From the start, Auckland Council has acknowledged the pressing need for reform of water services,” Mayor Goff said today.

“The provision of services through 67 different entities has resulted in a fragmented response and lack of economies of scale. Many councils have too often been unable or unwilling to invest adequately to ensure the quality of freshwater and wastewater treatment required.

“We participated constructively in the Working Group on Representation, Governance and Accountability because we want reform to go ahead—but in a manner that ensures democratic accountability of the proposed new entities to the people they serve.”

He said the Working Group had proposed positive changes that he hoped the Government would adopt.

“By vesting ownership of shares in each of the new entities in individual councils proportionate to their population, the recommendations would emphasise and entrench community ownership and help prevent future privatisation of those bodies.”

“Measures to ensure accountability of the new water services entities to the Regional Representation Groups which govern them have been significantly strengthened. And a new structure allows local interests to be heard within amalgamated water services entities.”

The changes, however, still do not reflect the unique position of Auckland, which has already amalgamated, he said.

“[Council] has also invested heavily in water infrastructure, with more than $11 billion in its latest 10-year Budget to improve water services. As Minister Nanaia Mahuta has herself acknowledged in her cabinet paper of 14 June 2021, Auckland could have been excluded from the reform because ‘it already has many of the desired features of the reform’.

He said Auckland would contribute 93% of the assets and 90% of the population served by the new Water Services Entity A.

“However, Aucklanders, through their elected representatives, are relegated to a minority position in the proposed governance of the entity. We do not accept this.”

“Submissions received from Aucklanders on the reform, and an independent and representative opinion poll, demonstrate that Aucklanders overwhelmingly want control over water services to remain with them through their elected representatives.

“We also believe that the inclusion of stormwater in the reforms should be delayed until the implications of doing so are better understood and it can be demonstrated that the benefits would outweigh the disadvantages.

“We welcome the Working Group’s recommendations as positive steps in the right direction.

“However, even with the changes, the structure proposed by the reforms does not reflect the unique position of Auckland. Our bottom line remains that Aucklanders should retain control over the governance of their own assets through their elected representatives,” Mayor Goff said.

Latest Articles