The unspoken and unwritten conclusion of the government’s report into the parlous state of the nation’s council water infrastructure is that decades of profligate spending on non-core services has been at the expense of providing core services. Now the bill has fallen due for that and it is billions, just for water:

New Zealand could need between one and four large new water entities channeling between $120 billion to $185b of investment into water infrastructure over the next 30 years.

That’s the message in hundreds of pages of specialist advice and briefings sent to Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta on the reforms, released on Wednesday.

Mahuta said she would announce Cabinet decisions on what the Government intends to do with the advice “in the coming months”.

After years of modelling, information gathering and deliberation, Mahuta has received final reports on what to do about the state of New Zealand’s water infrastructure that delivers freshwater, storm water and wastewater for councils.

The Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS) has been investigating possible fixes water services in New Zealand. This is the most detailed advice produced to date as it takes into account information collected from councils themselves between October last year and February 2021.

The Government is keen on establishing a small number of large new water entities, which would be able to deliver water services to households and businesses across a number of councils.

The entities would require councils to opt into them and the Government has said its bottom line is that they must be retained in public ownership.

The new estimate for the amount of investment required in water infrastructure over the next 30 years is between $120b-$185b. That equates to more than the net core Crown debt currently on the books – $105b as of March.


Perhaps if councils hadn’t wasted millions upon millions of dollars funding mirrors as art, mocked up state houses, painting rainbows on streets, stupid little used cycleways (even the council’s own website photos show not a single cyclist in any photo), promoting illegal dams, and a plethora of other nice-to-have projects, they might have been able to keep current with their infrastructure upgrades.

They also basically stole the depreciation funds that are supposed to account for replacement using typical council accounting jiggery-pokery to allow them to spend on vanity projects and other superfluous bullshit like Maori permits, translations, karakia and other mumbo-jumbo.

Tell you what, if you asked every Aucklander whether they’d rather have a Maori Statutory Board or working water reticulation, then the answer would be strongly in favour of water infrastructure.

The bottom line is this: councils have kicked the can down the road for decades, and now the reckoning is coming. The funny thing is the councils and government who are having to deal with this are all left-wing…what’s the bet they kick it down the road even further?

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Councils Need to Focus on Core Services
Cam Slater

Cam Slater

As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news,...