Hamilton City Council has welcomed a decision which will see Auckland reducing its reliance on the Waikato River as a water source in the long term.
On Friday, a Board of Inquiry released its decision regarding an application from Watercare to take a further 150 million litres of water per day from the river. It cleared the way for Watercare to double its take to 300 million litres of water per day, providing breathing room after the city faced acute water shortages last year.
However the Board rejected Watercare’s request for a 35-year resource consent and instead provided just a 20-year consent. In that time, Watercare will be required to make tangible progress towards finding a new water supply, other than the Waikato River. Consent conditions also strengthen the ability for tangata whenua to be directly involved in decision making about the awa.
Hamilton Mayor, Paula Southgate said she was pleased Auckland now had greater certainty over a key economic and life-giving resource. She noted the additional water take granted to Watercare will have no impact on Hamilton, which has a consent to take water from the river until 2044.
But she welcomed the direction for Auckland to think about future sustainable sources of water. Water supplies from the river “were not endless” and the Waikato River was already under pressure, she said.
“Auckland needed more certainty. This decision provides that and we certainly support that because Auckland’s economy and our economy are closely linked. No-one wants to see Auckland struggling for water,” the Mayor said.
“Hamilton’s concern, and that of other submitters, was always the prospect of a 35-year consent. That would have seen plenty of water for Auckland but could have limited our own access to water despite the Waikato River flowing right through our city. That would have been disastrous for Hamilton and for the wider Waikato economy.
“In our evidence to the Board we asked the consent be reduced to 20 years and that it be conditional on Auckland making measurable progress towards finding a new water source. It seems the Board has accepted our evidence and has come to a pragmatic decision which puts the health of the river, and the economic security of two fast growing cities, front and centre,” she said.