Watercare has a $2.5 billion dollar fiscal hole that puts us all at risk from asset failure, sewage overflows and drastic cuts to overdue infrastructure investment so why not look at a new model to free this critical utility from the constraints of local government ownership, asks Auckland Business Chamber CEO, Michael Barnett.

Watercare’s Board says they had two choices in trying to plug a $2.5b fiscal hole and opted for an affordable option which will see Aucklanders’ water bills double to over $2200 in the next decade.

The consequence of this puts Aucklanders’ environmental health and safety at risk plus the potential for asset failure, sewage overflows and drastic cuts to overdue infrastructure investment. This means reduced ability to fix leaks, renew old pipes, provide connections to new housing, stop overflow pollution and limited ability to deal with an emergency which begs the question whether it is time to find a new funding and operating model to increase efficiency, value for money and provide the services required for a city that will grow and thrive again,” he said.

“If Aucklanders were confronted with this knowledge there may have been a discussion on a funding and operating model that would enable private investment or a public private partnership to unleash this council controlled organisation from the debt to revenue cap that Auckland Council has to follow and means Watercare does not have the budget to do what it is meant to do and indeed what ratepayers expect it to do,” Mr Barnett said.

“Foresight failed us, new housing developments will be left high and dry with no guarantee of connections and there will be no money for adequate emergency responses. The response to the drought crisis showed us that strategic plans and contingencies are vital but sticking with the same model that has failed us and is no longer working as it should seems to be a guarantee of future failure and underperformance.”

For more information, please contact Michael Barnett on 027 563 1150
Michael Barnett, Chief Executive, Auckland Business Chamber