Local Body politicians in Wellington appear to be running around like chooks with their heads cut off over the state of their water infrastructure. We’ve all read about raw sewage pouring into Wellington Harbour earlier this year. Populist politicians seem to be all shrieking about the water company, that they all contribute to, being to blame.
This behaviour demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of infrastructure and finance. Infrastructure doesn’t just suddenly break down, unless you have something like an earthquake.
Basically, the flaw in the politician’s arguments is that the Council Controlled Organisation (CCO) which runs their water systems does not allocate capital funds. That is the role of individual Councils in the district. The Mayors of Porirua and Hutt City were the only ones who appear to appreciate this fact. The reason why the infrastructure is breaking down is because earlier Mayors and Councillors did not allocate sufficient funds to repair, or replace, them. Their Asset Management Plans (which all Councils have to have up to date) were obviously either wrong or not brought up to date frequently enough.
It will be interesting to see whether the mood to pull away from the CCO will prevail. If it does it will fly in the face of what the Government wants to happen with water management, as the Minister has made quite clear in this article https://www.newsroom.co.nz/pro/2020/02/24/1053366/minister-to-wellington-think-carefully-before-going-backwards.
The lesson for Greater Christchurch is to watch carefully how the Government and Wellington handle this little challenge. If Greater Wellington gains concessions from Government (remember its election year) over its water supply we should have our application for similar assistance waiting in a bottom drawer. The Government should not use our earthquake assistance as an excuse for not handling us the same as Wellington. Somebody, somewhere, please do an analysis of how much additional income the Government earned as a result of the earthquakes and I will sing about it from the rooftops.