25 Jun 2020

Council asks why Watercare wasn't better prepared

6:47 pm on 25 June 2020

Auckland Council has today been grilling its own water company, Watercare, over the management of the region's water shortage.

Watercare chief executive Raveen Jaduram

Watercare chief executive Raveen Jaduram. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

At a council meeting this morning, Watercare said the city is experiencing its worst drought ever, despite recent downpours.

Auckland dam's levels are sitting at 47 percent full today. The average for this time of year is 78 per cent.

The water management agency is now reviewing its forecasting to try and figure out how the city's water situation got so bad.

It was a wet night in Auckland last night, but speaking to Auckland Council today, Watercare chief executive Raveen Jaduram, said the city's drought situation is still dire.

"The first four months of this year have been the driest four months on record for Auckland. This is the most severe drought on record for us," he said.

"We are very concerned that, with the showers we get, that some of our customers may think the drought is broken and the problem has gone away. So we have to keep reinforcing that no, we still have a problem, our storage lakes are low [and] the forecast is low."

Water restrictions have been in place in Auckland for months now - and today councillors wanted answers about how the city's water is being managed.

Councillor Desley Simpson asked Watercare how they got into this mess.

"In simple terms, why? Finish that question. That's the question that everyone is asking you. You employ well-paid people to deliver for us, why are we in this situation we're in."

Margaret Delvin, Watercare's chairwoman, said it's not possible to prepare for all scenarios or have a system that can meet all demand, but the company is reassessing its approach.

"It's rather akin to say we'll builld our highways to build continual peak hour traffic," she said.

Delvin said Watercare was relooking at it's systems in light of the drought.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the council did not see the drought coming.

"None of us have 2020 vision and seven months ago we had 90 percent of water in our dam."

However he has not let Watercare off the hook entirely.

"I think we needed more strategic planning than what we've had."

He said the council and Watercare would both take blame for the situation.

A delegation from the Māori King's office also attended the meeting to show the importance of the issue.

The Auckland Council wants to fast-track its application to take more water from the Waikato River.

Kīngitanga spokesman Rahui Papa said Auckland's water issues were a shared problem and they are aware of their responsibilities to the river

"Your problems are our problems, and our problems are your problems. We are acutely aware of our duties of manakitanga. Manaki for the people, manaki for the te ao, the environment, especially the Waikato River."

Waikato-Tainui's Rukumoana Schaafhausen said the iwi is willing to discuss short-term measures for maintaining water supply, while long term solutions were found.

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