There needs to be more consideration of Aucklanders' needs
Tracy Mulholland, Whau Ward Councillor
Recently the Government announced the Three Waters proposals. I have been following this government approach and listening carefully to what is being proposed. I have also listened to other mayors and seen what other cities have done in their approach. This opinion piece is a personal view after considering ‘what is on the table’.
While it appears some councillors support the government’s objectives in seeking to reform New Zealand’s three waters system, I don’t believe that this proposal should be at the expense of democracy and accountability to the people of Auckland. The matters at hand are about the accountability to our communities and those who have contributed to the existing system.
I have been contacted by constituents across Auckland with real concerns about the governance structure that is proposed by the government. The proposal would remove processes and systems that are in place now whereby Watercare is accountable via Council as a CCO to Aucklanders. That includes board appointments, structures, responsiveness, and reporting. Watercare has to respond to Council’s Long-term Plans and the strategic direction approved by councillors. Watercare reports to us, the people, and it should stay that way. After all, we own it; it is a public entity. Watercare’s board are accountable to the people of Auckland through the governance of elected representatives. ‘It should stay that way,’ is what I am hearing from constituents.
The proposed reform by government effectively removes Aucklanders’ governance authority and that is something that our community might like to consider as an option. As quoted by the mayor, “Despite the fact that 92 per cent of the assets of the new entity would come from Auckland, and Auckland would have approximately 90 per cent of the population served by the new entity, Auckland Council could have just 35 per cent of the representation in the governance of the new entity and would have no direct input into appointing its board.”
Is this acceptable to our communities and our locals? I am being told ‘no’ by many.
If a new entity is created and it doesn’t respond to the communities that it is meant to serve, and removes a mandate that we currently have to ensure our needs as Aucklanders are put first, then we need to question the process and change.
Whilst some level of reform is needed, the current proposal needs more work and consultation. As stated by a number of constituents, ‘If this is so important, then let’s have a referendum’. As your Whau Ward Councillor, I am interested in hearing from you about your opinion.