Local government is at the heart of water issues in New Zealand, from the provision of drinking water and storm and waste water services to implementing standards for freshwater quality
LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says “Water 2050” will develop a framework for water that coherently integrates freshwater quality and quantity, standards, rights and allocation, land use, three waters infrastructure, cost and affordability, and funding while recognising that the allocation of iwi rights and interests in freshwater is a live issue for the crown.
“From the perspective of local government there has been little connected discussion of how quality standards like those announced by the Government recently connect to infrastructure investment and, perhaps most importantly for communities, affordability,” Yule says.
“Water infrastructure is owned by communities and is fiendishly expensive to construct or upgrade – the cost of upgrading New Zealand’s current water infrastructure will be in the billions. The quality of this infrastructure has a direct impact on the quality of our streams, lakes and rivers.
“So we need to ensure that when we set goals for how clean we want our freshwater resources to be, that we are also talking about the cost to our communities of doing this, the economic trade-offs that might need to be made, and how we pay for it. This is something that has been missing from the discussion so far.
“To achieve affordable and sustainable results we need to think about water in a holistic way and this will be the aim of Water 2050.”
The first major step in Water 2050 will be a Freshwater Symposium to be held in Wellington at the end of May. The two-day symposium will look at the strategic issues for freshwater management in New Zealand with a particular focus on water quality, quantity and funding and how we get the right outcomes for communities.
The symposium will include a keynote speech from Austin-based David Maidment, a specialist in environment and water resources engineering from the Center for Research in Water Resources, at the University of Texas.
“This symposium will seek to address many of the major issues around freshwater for New Zealand, local government and its communities,” Yule says. “We need to start having a better quality conversation about water and we hope this event will lead to a broader dialogue about what we want for our water and how we get there.”