Letter from Environmental Advisory Group

Letter from Environmental Advisory Group v2

The Environmental Advisory Group (EAG) is an independent group of individuals with interest and expertise in water and/or wastewater related topics. We advise, support and challenge Watercare’s approach to sustainability generally and environmental matters in particular. We also help to anticipate emerging issues and inform strategy development. We express community concerns and press Watercare to exercise environmental leadership within the water industry.

This year we were joined by Dr Kevin Simon, associate professor in the School of Environment at the University of Auckland. Kevin brings with him an in-depth knowledge of freshwater ecosystems and multiple contributing factors to water quality from across communities and chemistry, a skill set which will be of great value to the EAG.

Water supply has been a major topic for the group during the past year. Climate change projections clearly show that extreme weather events are likely to occur with increasing frequency. Watercare’s Climate Change Strategy addresses both prevention and mitigation and, based on recommendation from staff workshops, the organisation has identified a wide-ranging set of responses and is starting to implement these. Planning lead times are long, however, and climate extremes are with us already. This, together with faster-than-projected population growth, has presented an ongoing challenge and a need to advance planning for alternative means in order to build resilience into Auckland’s water supply. EAG is currently engaging with this process of considering alternatives. This raises a wide variety of issues, including maintaining quality standards for public health, practicality, timeliness, financial costs and wider environmental implications.

In June 2019 EAG sent recommendations to Watercare on the Hūnua revegetation project.

This was followed by a site visit in July 2019; EAG was impressed by the knowledge and dedication of Watercare staff and the extent of successful plant establishment.

EAG supports the planting of appropriate native species, which will both optimise protection of the important Hūnua catchment and bring biodiversity and potentially carbon sequestration benefits. EAG notes that the large scale of the Hūnua project is rare in New Zealand. The project provides great opportunities for the citizens of Auckland and the rest of the country.

Our contributions in recent months have been greatly affected by COVID-19. Some topics we were intending to examine have been reprioritised as we focused on feedback to Watercare staff as they tackled the challenges of lockdown and the most severe drought in living memory. Ensuring that we citizens of Auckland have high-quality drinking water on demand and that all the water we use is safely disposed of is a hugely complex and skilled undertaking, dependent on critical day-on-day performance by the legion of Watercare employees at all levels. From our observation, these essential services have continued smoothly through the stresses of the past months.

 

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
Mätauranga, mauri, waterscapes, water futures

Elizabeth Walker
Wetlands, water, community infrastructure, Aotearoa plants

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

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

Madeleine Wright
Environmental litigation, national policy development

Dr Kevin Simon
Environmental science, freshwater ecology and chemistry