Water review group releases recommendations
A water industry review has recommended charging developers — including government organisations & councils — according to the amount of impervious surface they create.
Impervious surfaces such as roads, paved parking & roof areas have much higher rates of water run-off than soil or vegetated surfaces, significantly increase the quantity of water flowing into the region’s stormwater systems, and heighten the risk of flooding & contaminants being flushed into natural waterways & harbours.
The Auckland region water, wastewater & stormwater review was begun in 1999 by 6 of the region’s 7 councils (Rodney, North Shore, Waitakere, Auckland, Manukau & Papakura, Franklin excepted) to examine long-term water industry issues.
The review’s findings & draft framework for action will be discussed in detail by each council over the next month before they decide what steps to take next.
Public consultation was undertaken last year, initial findings were discussed in council workshops in March & April, and a regional workshop involving wider interests was held in April.
The review report going to the councils now says they should work together to investigate introducing “impervious surface charges” for stormwater as the region’s urban population & rate of development increase.
The report said a system of charges linked to the amount of impervious surface in a development would improve environmental outcomes by modifying the behaviour of developers to consider run-off issues, and provide funding to improve stormwater infrastructure.
The review also recommends:
Councils should work co-operatively in operational, policy & planning areas to achieve better environmental, social & economic outcomes for councils, ratepayers & the general public
Setting up a new body — the Auckland Water Office — to monitor the industry and function as an independent watchdog on industry issues, such as pricing policies & consumer protection. Funded by the councils and established for an initial 12-month trial period, the office would facilitate closer relationships & co-operation between the industry operators & councils. It would also provide expert information & technical support to bodies such as the Watercare Services Ltd shareholder representative group
Putting in place a better mechanism to ensure Maori have input on the management of water-industry issues. At present, iwi are involved on a council-by-council basis, and the review recommends that a more efficient regionwide approach be taken.Once the councils have considered the review findings at meetings and workshops over the next month, they will decide how best to implement the recommendations.
This may include formulating a heads of agreement to establish the Auckland Water Office, and another heads of agreement between councils & iwi to establish a mutually beneficial framework for iwi involvement in the industry.
In addition to the possible impervious surface charges, review issues included:
Whether or not to amalgamate existing operators into a single regional council-controlled body handling all aspects of the water industry
Whether an independent industry regulator is required
How best to improve collaboration between council-owned water & wastewater operators, particularly with regard to planning capital & operational expenditure
Establishing a uniform regional policy for user charges
And, how best to ensure iwi involvement in industry issues.During the earlier council workshops it became clear not all the councils would support the option of amalgamating existing industry operators, such as Watercare Services and the individual council-owned operators, into a single regionwide entity. Some amalgamations may still be considered.
The steering group’s report, Auckland region water, wastewater & stormwater review: Findings & recommendations to councils (March 2002), can be accessed along with other background information about the water industry review process at the review’s website.