May 06, 2024

Watercare Update

Dear Supporter,

I don't often get to email you with good news for Auckland ratepayers, so today I'm celebrating.

I've spent the afternoon working through the details of yesterday's Watercare announcement by Prime Minister Chris Luxon, Local Government Minister Simeon Brown, and Mayor Wayne Brown.  It is nothing short of a Ratepayer Victory!

Aucklanders avoid 26% hike in water bills 💦

Watercare has a $13.9 billion shortfall over the next 10 years. Plugging this hole would see the water bill for the average Auckland household jump from $1,340 to $1,688.

Unlike for Council rates, Watercare's high costs aren't to do with a growing bureaucracy or wage bill – rather it needs to invest in capital plant (i.e. the pipes and pumps that will last generations).

But the mess we are in is because Watercare needs to pay up front as the Council's overspending and waste has seen the Council's group borrowing cap reached. 

Put another way: Len Brown, then Phil Goff, maxed out the mortgage and credit card, so Watercare can't go to the bank.

What the Government is doing 🏦

The deal that has been struck with the Government will see legislation passed in Parliament later this month to take Watercare's liabilities off the Council's books. Basically the legislation will see that Watercare's finances are ring-fenced and the Council can't he held liable for Watercare's debt.

That will mean Watercare will again be able borrow prudently and smooth the cost of longterm infrastructure improvements – and not pass the buck directly onto Aucklanders with extremely high upfront water charges.

And unlike the last Government's undemocratic/co-governed Three Waters plans to take local assets away from Aucklanders – under this deal, Watercare will remain owned by ratepayers.

Ultimate control of Watercare (such as appointment of Watercare's directors) will remain with the democratically elected councillors.

7% is not "good", but not nearly as "bad" as 26% 🤔

Credit where it's is due – the Mayor stuck to his guns and got this over the line. A 7.2% increase in water bills is still too much – but it is a lot better than the 25.8% we faced! 

It is certainly a lot better than Auckland ratepayers having to also subsidise Northland's water networks as would have been the case if the last government's 'Three Waters' proposals were fully implemented.

But why do I still have a sinking feeling? 🚰

The underlying problem that got us into this mess remains: Auckland Council has borrowed up the wazoo – and it doesn't have capacity to fund long term infrastructure investment. 

As of 31 December, Auckland Council's total liabilities (i.e. how much the Council owes on your behalf) amounts to $31,901.29 for every Auckland household.

This dwarfs every other New Zealand council on a per household basis. Even post-earthquake Christchurch comes out better!

And what did we get for ? The best possible infrastructure (yeah right!).

Auckland Council's culture of wasteful spending remains. Unless something changes – rates will continue to be flushed down the toilet on pet projects and vanity schemes. That's where we come in. 

Support our work in exposing this waste and advocating for better accountability in Auckland Council.

👍  Yes, I'll support less waste and a more accountable Super City  👍

Thank you for you support,

Callum Sam
   Sam Warren

   Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance 

The Ratepayers’ Alliance relies 100% on donations from grassroots supporters wanting Auckland to live up to its potential. If you agree that Council needs to focus on efficiency and re-prioritise its already bloated budgets – rather than just reach deeper into ratepayers pockets – we are counting on your support.