Infrastructure think tank calls for a single nation-wide water authority in NZ

Infrastructure New Zealand says it's time to take water supply management out of the hands of small councils and establish one large, national authority.

Following water supply issues like the contamination in Havelock North and subsequent release this week of a report into the incident, chief executive Stephen Selwood this morning told TVNZ 1's Breakfast it's time for New Zealand to look forward.

"The reality is our water systems were put in place 30-40 years ago ... it's way past its use-by date and, frankly, councils are struggling to keep up with renewals programme - they've got small ratepayer bases and not enough money coming in," Mr Selwood said.

Mr Selwyn said bigger challenges are coming along for water management, due to changes in climate and temperature.

"I think we are in danger of seeing more water shortages, and it's not just drinking water we're talking about it's wastewater schemes and storm water systems as well," he said.

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"So climate change and the impact of high intensity rainfall - all of those issues are going to have to be managed going forward much greater than what we've experienced in the past and way beyond the resources of small councils," he said.

Mr Selwyn said the time for a single national authority controlling and maintaining New Zealand's water resource infrastructure has come.

"I think the time for political governance and management of our water systems is past its time," he said.

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"Most countries in the world now - we're moving to professional governance and management ... scale makes an enormous difference to the ability to both fund and manage proper water systems in New Zealand."

Mr Selwyn gave the example of Scotland, where statutory corporation Scottish Water, founded in 2002, manages the entire water and sewerage supply for the country, with the oversight of the Water Industry Commission for Scotland.

Scottish Water is known for having a high degree of service quality, and Mr Selwyn said the corporation had achieved a 40 per cent operational saving since 2002 while also investing significantly in water infrastructure.

He also said New Zealand would be "foolish" if it continued to shy away from universal chlorination of the drinking water supply.

"Consumers wouldn't taste the difference - maybe the first time or the second time," he said.

"The population - 1.5 million people - in Auckland are drinking chlorinated water today and most of us don't know the difference - it tastes perfectly fine."

Infrastructure New Zealand say it's time to establish a single, nationwide water authority. Source: Breakfast