Sell Watercare to grow Auckland


With Nick Smith stating yesterday that Auckland Council needs to pull finger and release land through the PAUP (followed by hinting at the use of commissioners if it doesn’t) I am betting that the Council will pull their age old stunt of pleading poor by whinging about infrastructure.

As it is – Len Brown has taken the Council to a new dizzying heights where Council debt is concerned.

The Council is on the ropes with threats from credit agencies to downgrade it too. They genuinely don’t have the money.

Sure Council can sell assets – but those assets are limited. Airport shares are one. Another would be an over rented tower once its reclad.

It could also flog off property it owns but doesn’t need – although if Panuku run that show it will undoubtedly become a mess. It could sell the port land – but that does require a replacement port elsewhere with a very large infrastructure spend.  

But the biggest asset raise that the Council could make would be if it agreed to decoupling Watercare.

Releasing Watercare to act on it’s own within a new regulatory framework would allow Watercare to raise it’s own capital for pipes – which is really where the issue is. Watercare can’t raise moolah whilst it is attached to Auckland Council. Yet it can generate it’s own income from water rates to pay borrowing costs and it borrow against that cashflow. There is nothing really stopping it acting like the power companies to supply water. It could be a share market listing with the cash going back to Council. And to ensure fair and reasonable charges there could be a retail component to the water – like with power – and Watercare acting like the lines companies do.

Something like this needs to happen. Because Auckland Council keep using the lack of money for infrastructure as their justification for sitting on their hands and doing nothing.

The idea isn’t new. Plenty will hate it, but those same people probably hated the idea that publicly owned power generators and lines/transmission companies were privatised through public listings too.

The fact is that with a reasonable level of regulation the electricity sector has set up a template for how water resources can be managed within cities like Auckland. It won’t work necessarily for small cities and towns but in growth locations like Auckland the idea is gold.

Well I think it is anyway.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.