'It's madness': Jones calls out those holding drought-stricken Auckland 'to ransom'

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 26 Jun 2020, 9:04AM
Shane Jones. (Photo / File)

'It's madness': Jones calls out those holding drought-stricken Auckland 'to ransom'

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 26 Jun 2020, 9:04AM

Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones has thrown his weight behind a bid by the Auckland Council to fast-track the more than doubling of the city's water allowance from the Waikato River.

And he came out strongly against anyone who plans on getting in the way of this campaign.

"It is my view that under no circumstances whatsoever should the Waikato tribe – or any tribe – hold to ransom a third of the country's population," he told a select committee on Thursday morning.

Jones told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking this morning he was "confounded" Auckland had been waiting seven years to obtain water from the Waikato River when every day "billions of litres" of water flowed over the mouth of the river.

When asked about the legal standing of Tainui and whether they owned the river, he said when the opportunity arises he had no compunction in finding a way for Auckland to secure its water.

Jones told Hosking we can't have the country's most populous global city on the precipice of running out of water: "It's madness."

Jones said he did not think any tribe had any right to hold Auckland to ransom.

As a Māori, he acknowledged that it was unfair that Waikato iwi felt it could effectively block a bid from the Auckland Council to get more water from the Waikato River.

"We can't have a third of the population consistently moaning," he said, referring to Auckland's ongoing worry about the shortage of water.

He said the RMA had become a "bureaucratic bunion" and Parliament "needed to slice it".

Jones said moves to create a new landfill in Dome Valley, north of Warkworth, would probably have been better off being used for water infrastructure instead.

"Auckland and its mayor is wanting to dig a big hole in Dome Valley and bury all the rubbish up there.

"Perhaps what they should've been thinking about is using that hole to store more water.

"But let's deal with what we've got at the moment."

He acknowledged that the asking of a fee for something like water was against Māoridom.

"For me, as a Māori, to hear that somehow Auckland has to either pay a fee or go on bended knee - that should not happen under the guise of the cloak of Māoridom.

"No one's got the authority to do that."

It comes after Waikato iwi suggested they wanted to block the council's bid to get more water from the river.

Its executive chairwoman, Rukumoana Schaafhausen, has since said Auckland Council and Watercare needed to find ways to draw water from the river and other ideas.

Earlier this week, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff lobbied MPs to add the city's water application to the 11 other projects fast-tracked by the Government under its new post-Covid-19 recovery plan.

Auckland Council applied to the Waikato Regional Council in 2013 to take an extra 200 megalitres of water to cater to increasing population demands in Auckland.

But seven years later, the bid is still yet to be considered.

Meanwhile, Auckland is experiencing a one-in-200-year drought event.

"If insufficient rain falls through winter and spring, by summer, severe water restrictions could be needed affecting people and businesses," Goff said.

Despite this Waikato Regional Council chair Russ Rimmington told yesterday's AM Show that Auckland was not welcome to Waikato's water supply.

Speaking to MPs on Thursday morning, Jones lambasted Rimmington.

He said he was "astounded by the flatulent outbreak" from the chairman which he said was "attacking Aucklanders".

"As infrastructure minister, if I have any influence whatsoever, I would give them their water from the Waikato River – 15 billion litres is disappearing into the Tasman sea every day."

He said if he has any chance to solve that problem, "I will".

Speaking to reporters after the select committee, Jones had a message for Goff.

"Phil Goff is a politician – he needs to bear in mind that rule number one in politics is reciprocity."