Water, water everywhere and not a drop to swim in
As Election 2017 rages on the national stage Auckland continues along with its massive City building program and all the consequences (negative and positive) that goes with it.
One of the more subtle consequences that blows up into the media often is not traffic or housing but the quality of our streams and harbours.
Over the last few weeks I am been engaged with rural counterparts over waste, waste entering the water, quality of our waterways, water taxes, and regulatory enforcement being rather inconsistent. In short it has led to an urban vs rural split of which rural is at a disadvantage right now as urbanites who do command 60% of the vote (34% of it in Auckland alone) are fully mobilised as the election draws nearer (it shouldn’t be this way as both should be working together as we are all in this together). One question I constantly get though is Auckland’s water issues which while legitimate it also becomes a case of ‘No Shit Sherlock’ as the City is fully aware of the issue and what needs to be done.
From Radio New Zealand:
A major water quality plan – which could include new charges and an acceleration of some major projects – is being worked on by the Auckland Council.
A $1 billion project separating stormwater and sewerage lines could be shifted to a new entity, to clear some space on the council’s books for other work over the next decade.
An early step will be the launch of Safeswim – real-time information on water quality at 69 Auckland beaches from November – to help make clear how much needed to be done, and where.
Penny Hulse, the chair of the Environment and Community Committee, will head the work, which she described as the water equivalent of the city’s joint plan with the government on transport projects needed over the next 30 years.
“Some of it may well be paying for improved infrastructure through rates but there are other solutions too, community-based solutions as well which we’re keen to get out and work on,” she said.
“We do need to be honest with Aucklanders and say ‘there have been areas neglected for decades, while some areas have paid more’.”
Ms Hulse said before the amalgamation the North Shore City Council had engaged with residents and dealt to stormwater problems leading to cleaner beaches, but central Auckland needed a lot of work to both catch-up and cope with intensification.
The council may consider shifting its biggest water infrastructure project into a ‘Special Purpose Vehicle’, which would take it off the council’s books and allow it to borrow money for other priority work.
Mayor Phil Goff accepted this may involve additional or new ways of paying for water and disposal, all of which would be consulted on with the public.
The area mainly neglected and holding Auckland up will be the former Auckland City Council area which was dominated by the National backed Citizen and Ratepayers Council. C&R believed in artificially low Rates (hence why the Isthmus had the largest increases while others got decreased when Rates were standardised between 2012-2015) which as a consequence infrastructure including sewerage was not invested in at any great lengths. Heck even under pioneer Dove Myer Robinson the Right resisted the Mangere Wastewater Treatment Plant being built saying it was too expensive (and as a result would rather have poo still being pumped out directly into the Waitemata).
Consequently Auckland is in a pickle, knows it is in a pickle and that pickle will be expensive to fix.
The Central Interceptor that will travel across the Isthmus to the Mangere Wastewater Treatment Plant will cost $1.5b and start construction in 2019. Once complete the overflows from the Isthmus into the Harbours will reduce by 85%. For another Billion the storm water would be separated from the sewer system but that is being debated at the moment on doing such a project.
None-the-less work is under-way to fix the water quality issues it will just take at least a decade to get there.
All said and done Auckland probably should keep its eyes on itself rather than south of the Bombays when it comes to water issues given we have a multi-billion dollar problem that needs our undivided attention!