Letter from Environmental
Advisory Group

Letter from Environmental Advisory Group v2

The Environmental Advisory Group (EAG) has continued to advise, support and challenge Watercare’s performance with regard to sustainability and ecological matters. We also attempt to focus Watercare’s attention on emerging issues and inform strategy development. We express community concerns and press Watercare to exercise environmental leadership within governance of water issues.

Face-to-face meetings were disrupted in 2020. In 2021 we have enjoyed being able to sit around the table together again. This has been particularly important as Watercare has a new CEO and is consulting with the Government on a range of proposed water-related reforms, while still responding to the issues arising from the 2020 drought.

Water supply has continued as the major topic for the group this year. We submitted a paper and recommendations on future water management and supply in November 2020. The paper took a holistic view of the topic, and thus some of the recommendations fall outside of Watercare’s remit. We encourage Watercare to follow through where relevant with Auckland Council and government to assist in achieving coordinated management of water resources. Tāmaki Makaurau cannot assume continued unlimited abundance of water supply due to ongoing population growth and regional climate change impacts. For example, increased frequency and severity of drought place constraints on water supply and exacerbate environmental problems arising from water use. We must change our perspective and behaviours from approaching “water as a utility” to treating “water as a taonga”. This is consistent with the Auckland Water Strategy (under development) and with “Te Mana o te Wai” as outlined in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (2020).

Watercare reported on developments to its Climate Change Strategy. It engaged the internal audit function to review progress and received positive comments. We look forward to seeing action on the improvements that were recommended. We are impressed and pleased with the way the organisation is addressing the challenge of reducing emission impacts of construction, while noting that as Auckland grows future supply options are likely to have a larger carbon footprint than the existing mainly gravity-fed system.

The effects of wastewater on the environment and on community wellbeing are a continuing legacy issue. While substantial improvements have been made, there is still much to do, and we look forward to working on this with Watercare during the coming year.

 

Paul Walbran
Chairman
Environmental Advisory Group

EAG group members and areas of interest:

Paul Walbran, Chairman
Water quality, harbour health, heritage

Betsy Kettle
Zero Waste, water-sensitive urban design

Daniel Hikuroa
Mātauranga, mauri, waterscapes, water futures

Elizabeth Walker
Wetlands, water, community infrastructure, water-sensitive urban design

Georgina Hart
Environmental management, business sustainability, water quality, restoration and conservation, climate change

Judy Bischoff
Water, energy efficiency, soils, waste, permaculture

Madeleine Wright
Environmental barrister, national policy development

Dr Kevin Simon
Environmental science, freshwater ecology and chemistry