Heather du Plessis-Allan: Waikato taxpayers suffering for Auckland's water woes

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tue, 30 Jun 2020, 4:04PM

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Waikato taxpayers suffering for Auckland's water woes

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tue, 30 Jun 2020, 4:04PM

So the battle over Auckland’s water: that ratcheted up a notch overnight didn’t it?

Turns out the Waikato River Authority has told Watercare if it wants more water it’s going to have to pay.

Opening bid: 10 cents a litre. Add that up for a day’s usage and it’d set Auckland back $20 million a day.

That clearly isn’t going to happen.

It’s not feasible to charge that kind of money from a council short on water at any time, let alone when they’re frantically cutting costs to make ends meet post-Covid.

But, this is obviously designed to send a warning to Watercare that it can’t just keep tapping the Waikato for future water use.

And on principle, fair enough.

Tapping the Waikato is not without consequence. Obviously, there’s an ecological impact from running a river too dry, and by the way, that is a risk with the Waikato at times.

And then there’s the economic opportunity cost. According to the Waikato Regional Council if Auckland gets the water it wants, it will take 80 per cent of the river’s allocation.

That leaves only 20 per cent for the other applicants hoping to be allocated water.

There are 300 other applicants.  Chances are someone or many someones will miss out because Auckland starts pumping more water.  And these are applicants who might want to start a business or industry that actually benefits the Waikato financially. 

So essentially, Waikato ratepayers miss out because Auckland ratepayers need water.

The Waikato and its ratepayers can’t be expected to keep propping up Auckland because Auckland refuses to get on with investing in infrastructure.  We keep banging on about this but, Auckland hasn’t built a dam since the 1970s, even though the population’s ballooned from around 700,000 to 1.6 million.

If what Auckland needs is a desalination plant, then Watercare must get on with investing in it. 

Tapping the Waikato for millions more litres isn’t going to solve the problem long term and it’s actually not fair on the ratepyaers of another region.