- RNZ publishes an anonymous claim that Auckland water rates will double without 3 Waters.
- The headline reads as pure politics.
- Auckland is already big enough to realise any potential savings or financing advantage from scale.
- The “savings” from proposed 3 Waters are really a “buy now, pay later” plan which can work without 3 Waters.
Auckland’s water costs to double? Says who?
Is RNZ campaigning for Labour? Their fearmongering article about 3 Waters suggests so.
On 4 October 2023, Radio New Zealand ran an article with this headline:
The report (which also ran in other major publications like the NZ Herald) gives the impression the anonymous “council staff member” is blowing the whistle on Auckland mayor Wayne Brown, who, we are informed, “continues to support repealing the Water Services Reform programme”.
According to “the woman”, the current version of 3 Waters is the “only way to maintain the city’s current debt to revenue limit”.
The narrative on offer from the anonymous source is identical to election campaign talking points on Labour’s website, which is just a pitch to voters on what’s possible should National repeal the (unpopular) water reforms.
Why is RNZ not covering the many credible arguments suggesting Labour’s claims of outsized savings, through 3 Waters reforms, are a mirage anyway?
Auckland is already at scale
As part of 3 Waters (rebranded as the Affordable Water programme), councils will amalgamate water services into ten (previously four) Water Service Entities (WSEs) covering the entire nation. The sales pitch is these entities will have a multitude of benefits, of scale, such as an increased ability to borrow money as well as save on purchasing.
But why would there be any advantage over Auckland, which is already bigger than most of the WSEs were going to be when there were only four of them?
Auckland’s size means any savings from scale are essentially already baked into the cake. More likely Auckland will end up subsidising the smaller Northland communities it is grouped with because that is how these things usually play out.
The “anonymous person” measures savings differently than a real business
As we have previously reported, aside from the supposed purchasing advantage, 3 Waters’ so-called “savings” largely stem from an increase in the amount that can be borrowed. To equal what was proposed with 3 Waters, it is just a matter of re-writing the current borrowing restriction, if the powers that be decide that is a good idea.
Let’s not forget about the co-governance in 3 Waters
The unique co-governance aspects in 3 Waters that grant iwi control over virtually all freshwater have associated costs and charges that remain unknown. They are also one of the major inspirations for the push back against both 3 Waters and co-governance.
3 Waters could easily be amended to eliminate the co-governance aspect, even if some of the rest remained. ACT, National and NZ First all say they will bin the co-governance aspect of 3 waters, at least.