Auckland offers help for Waikato River pollution

By D'Angelo Martin

Auckland City continues to cope with a severe drought. Auckland Council has asked neighbouring cities for help but that support is limited.

At a meeting in Hamilton last Friday between Auckland Council and Waikato Regional Council, it was agreed the two will continue to work closely together on issues of mutual importance, such as Auckland's long-term water supply needs and the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River.

Auckland takes 150 million litres a day from the river and wants to increase that daily litre intake by 25 million but that request was turned down by  Waikato Regional Council.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff says that, with minimal rainfall forecast for the next two months, the city has run the tap dry.

He wonders if the quantity of water Auckland is looking for would immediately have a perceptible impact on the river.

"It's maybe another 25 million litres a day, it won’t drop the river level by much. I expect the local iwi and the local authorities to say we're looking after our interest first but I also expect them to be good neighbours.”

Pollution problem

But, although the Waikato council understands that the city is facing its worst drought on record, Waikato regional councillor Tipa Mahuta says the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River comes first.

“The problem is the water drawn from the Waikato River for Tāmaki to use is polluted - we’re currently finding alternatives to restore the river water quality. But Auckland takes the water and gives nothing back in return.”

Goff offers to work together with the problems that the Waikato already has in terms of the pollution.

Auckland Council's Watercare utility could provide its services for the restoration and to improve the water quality of the river.

“We're happy through Watercare to work alongside you to improve the quality of the river to help with the riparian planting and other measures we take. We're happy to do joint studies with you to show that at Tuakau where we take the water from, nowhere between Tuakau and the river mouth are people taking water from the river.”

Mahuta says  “the iwi are the first to come to mind when looking at the protection of the awe. The council has a part to play in this is well. But ultimately the Waikato River Authority is at the top of the list when it comes to the awa wellbeing and protection.”

New reservoirs will be built and existing reservoirs will r-open to help with the drought. The council is also considering purifying and recycling wastewater, depending on whether the drought will extend for much longer.