Watercare is refusing to be drawn into discussions about its possible privatisation, after Auckland Mayoral hopeful John Tamihere announced bold plans to sell off 49 per cent of the council owned organisation.
In what appeared to be a shock to current Mayor Phil Goff, Tamihere told the crowd at a public meeting this morning that proceeds of the partial sale of the water company could instead be diverted to infrastructure.
Tamihere's plan was revealed in the first head-to-head debate with Goff at a business breakfast at the North Harbour Club on the North Shore.
It's the second part-privatisation plan so far throughout his campaign, after announcing in May that, if elected in October, he'd sell off Ports of Auckland but retain its land for future re-development.
Watercare's chief operations officer Shane Morgan told Kate Hawkesby it's a political process he's not part of, and that he would not comment further.
"I chose to come back to New Zealand after working for a number of public and private water utilities because I think this is the best city in the world to live in and I think this is the best water utility to work for."
Goff has slammed the proposal, stating it would cause water rates to rise "substantially and burden lower-income families with high costs".
"Privatising Watercare, whose assets are valued at around $10 billion, would force up the cost of water rates with any investor seeking a 7–10 per cent return on their investment," Goff said.
But Tamihere told the Herald that Goff was "driving up rates anyway".
However, he said his plan would lift the burden being inflicted on "the majority of Aucklanders earning less than $80,000".
"To do that you have to open your eyes to where you've got possibilities to release a significant capital that is presently tied up and not providing any proper return on investment. And Watercare's assets are so large that it's not."