Hamilton City Council has today unanimously approved a draft agreement to help resolve Auckland’s looming water crisis.
The agreement would assign some of Hamilton’s existing water-take consent to Watercare, enabling Watercare to take up to 25 million litres per day (MLD) from the Waikato River. The agreement guarantees no risk to the availability of water for Hamiltonians.
Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate says the deal supports the urgent needs of a neighbouring city, while protecting the health of the river and safeguarding water supply for Hamilton.
“This is a critical time for Auckland which is facing dire economic and social impacts unless this is sorted. Watercare asked us for assistance in May and we have done a huge amount of work since then to provide that help,” she says.
“But my Council is very clear that any arrangement must have the health of the river at its heart, must pose absolutely no risk to Hamilton’s water users both now and in the future, and needed full consultation with Iwi.
“Today’s decision meets those requirements,” Mayor Southgate said.
The detail of the draft agreement remains confidential, pending meetings with Watercare and Waikato-Tainui where final feedback will be received, but Mayor Southgate said the deal was built on some ‘bottom-line’ key principles.
“For the next three years, until we finish an upgrade to our water treatment plant, Hamilton has some unused capacity in our water-take consent. We can take more water than our plant can treat. This deal allows Watercare to use some of that, providing Hamilton’s needs are met first.
“We’ve also said this is a temporary deal. Watercare wanted a three-year arrangement but we’ve said we’ll agree to a year initially. We want to see tangible evidence that Watercare is taking steps to protect the river and find more sustainable long-term solutions to Auckland’s water needs and we’ll be checking in with Waikato Tainui to make sure it is.
“The Waikato River is not an infinite resource. Part of this deal means Watercare will halt its emergency take of water from the river and we expect to have discussions around how, over time, Auckland can reduce its dependence on the river as a percentage of its water needs.”
Mayor Southgate says pulling together the agreement in a short time needed goodwill and common sense.
“Making this work, and developing an enduring approach, can’t be achieved without a collaborative approach from Auckland and Hamilton councils, Watercare, the Waikato Regional Council, the Waikato River Authority and Waikato-Tainui,” Mayor Southgate says.
“This is a rare situation brought on by a record drought – we accept that. But the health and wellbeing of our river is paramount and any short-term solution for one city can’t come at the expense of another or the health and the wellbeing of the river. That’s not how this works.”
Key points and next steps
- Most of Auckland’s water comes from dams which are low due to a record dry spell.
- Watercare requested Hamilton City Council consider allowing it to use part of Hamilton’s water consent allocation from the Waikato River.
- Hamilton has capacity within its consent in the next few years and today agreed to assign some of that capacity, not needed by Hamilton, to Watercare for 12 months. The agreement provides for this assignment to be extended for two further one-year periods.
- Entering into this agreement means Watercare will cease taking water under its emergency consent.
- Today’s draft agreement ensures Hamilton’s water needs are prioritised so there is no change to the normal supply of water for Hamiltonians.
- Watercare must apply to WRC for a short-term consent before it can use the temporary assignment.