Govt’s water reforms raise concerns in Auckland

In a letter to the Prime Minister and other Ministers, Mayor of Auckland Phil Goff has expressed serious concerns over the proposed three waters service delivery reforms.

“I have made it clear in Parliament that I am very concerned about the Government’s water reform plans. The Mayor of Auckland has raised concerns over governance, accountability and cost and I am in complete agreement with him,” Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.

Mr Goff expresses strong doubts that amalgamation will be beneficial for Auckland. He highlights that water costs are higher in the regions and so a merge would effectively drive prices higher for Aucklanders.

Issues of democracy, on which Ms Collins has led conversations through her regional speeches in recent weeks, also factor as major concerns for the Mayor. Both Ms Collins and the Mayor emphasise that diluting the influence of elected representatives with a large number who are unelected is risky and not likely to produce efficient outcomes. 

“Accountability is key in vital infrastructure governance and ultimately having elected representatives ensures that an organisation can be held to account to a greater degree,” Ms Collins says.

“Without elected representatives able to ensure real accountability and responsiveness, the organisation runs the risk of becoming self-centred with very highly paid executives and not hearing public concerns,” Mr Goff says.

Additionally, as Ms Collins points out “while the Department of Internal Affairs and councils have one large iwi - Ngāi Tahu - to negotiate with in the South Island. The North Island is a whole different story with many iwi with competing interests.”

Mr Goff raised this with Minister Mahuta in his letter, saying “the [governing] Group will comprise representatives ranging from four to six local authorities and up to 50 iwi. Gaining consensus among all parties is likely to be a time consuming and expensive undertaking.”

Mr Goff concludes his correspondence with the Government by saying “the current structure proposed is unlikely to find favour with Auckland and its Council.”

Ms Collins suggests it is unlikely to find favour with New Zealand.

You can read a transcribed version of Mayor Goff's letter to Nanaia Mahuta here.

You can also see original copies of Mayor Goff's letter here. Page 1, Page 2, Page 3.