At a recent meeting the North Shore City Council Strategy and Finance Committee discussed its concerns over government plans for water.
Committee Chair Grant Gillon says that the councillors reiterated their opposition to the privatisation of water supplies in a formal resolution.
However, he says, there is another issue which also concerns his fellow councillors - a suggestion that a Wellington-based body will be set up to control the allocation and management of freshwater throughout New Zealand.
“This possibility was flagged by the government’s ‘point man’ on water strategy, former National Party Deputy Prime Minister Wyatt Creech, in a recent television interview,” says Councillor Gillon.
“He claimed that the allocation and management of water should be taken away from local authorities and given to central government in order to remove the ‘politics’ from water decisions.”
Councillor Gillon also noted that Agriculture Minister David Carter recently said that unless local authorities worked more constructively with farmers over water allocation, they would risk removal from office.
The proposal from Wyatt Creech, he says, would be a major shift from the current situation where local councils decide how water should be allocated in their own areas through the Resource Consent process.
“This approach could lead to a situation where local government is bypassed, with a Wellington-based agency deciding how much water is available for domestic use and how much for industrial or farming use.”
He says that there is some merit in having consistent national rules around water quality and enforcement, and guidance on strategic water resource allocation, but having Auckland’s water allocation decisions taken in Wellington makes no sense.
“Strategic control of Auckland’s water resources must remain in the hands of the locally elected council directly accountable to the voters of Auckland. “
“On the North Shore, residents are already facing an increase in their water bills resulting from the government requiring the new water company to adopt volumetric charging, and the inevitable rationalisation of water tariffs across the region.
“Any moves by the proposed new water overlords in Wellington to restrict domestic water allocation on the Shore, or across the super city, in favour of other sectors, will simply drive the cost even higher.”
“We will all have to wait to see what the government decides to do next, but the signals from Mr Creech are cause for real concern.”