Saturday, May 25, 2024

Local Water Done Well agreement flows for Auckland

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Prime Minister Christopher Luxon (centre), Local Government Minister Simeon Brown (centre) and Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown at Watercare’s Central Interceptor construction site in Māngere yesterday afternoon.

The Government has this week announced a new water plan for Auckland, ensuring previously projected 25.8 per cent water rates increases won’t flow to ratepayers and local control of water assets will also be retained.

The announcement was made at a joint press conference at Watercare’s Central Interceptor construction site in Māngere yesterday afternoon by Prime Minister Christopher Luxon [MP for Botany], Local Government Minister Simeon Brown [MP for Pakuranga], and Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown.

“Under the Local Water Done Well solution we have announced today, Aucklanders will avoid the 25.8 per cent water rate increases previously proposed by Watercare,” said Brown.

“We have worked closely with Mayor Brown and Auckland Council and are thrilled to announce that Watercare’s more financially sustainable model will ensure water rates remain affordable both now and into the future.

“The previous Government wasted $1.2 billion over several years to deliver a water reform plan that was wasteful, took away local control and was divisive. It was resoundingly  rejected by voters.

“Some said that Local Water Done Well could not be done. But within the space of just six months, the Coalition Government has worked with Auckland Council on designing a new model for Watercare.”

The new model means Watercare will be able to borrow more money for long-term investment in water infrastructure and spread the borrowing over a longer period rather than front-loading the cost on to current ratepayers.

The Mayor says he has been working closely with central government to provide a simple, affordable water solution for Aucklanders. The Council’s Governing Body unanimously voted for their preferred option a meeting on Thursday.

“This outcome is exactly what we’ve been looking to achieve. The new Government asked us to come up with a preferred model, and they’ve agreed to implement it, which is good. I want to thank the Minister and the Prime Minister for the way they have handled this,” said Mayor Brown.

“The idea of water rates increasing by more than a quarter in the year ahead was unacceptable. There had to be a better way and by working in partnership with central government we have found one.

“I have long said that this was a balance sheet issue and needed to be treated like one. Councils should have more say about how we manage and deliver our water systems. The Government have taken this feedback seriously and worked closely with me to come up with this solution which will put water rates on a much more sustainable footing for the infrastructure we need.”

International credit ratings agency, S&P Global, Ratings has determined the model would mean Watercare’s borrowing is considered separate from Auckland Council for credit rating purposes.

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