Watercare ready for Auckland's infrastructure needs

By Tony Garnier

Plans are in action to meet the needs of our population growth, writes Tony Garnier.

Watercare plan to invest $4.8 billion into Auckland's infrastructure over the next 10 years. Photo / Supplied
Watercare plan to invest $4.8 billion into Auckland's infrastructure over the next 10 years. Photo / Supplied

Respective water and transport investment plans to fund the billions of dollars needed by each sector to meet Auckland's population growth over the next 10 years could not be more different.

While all is uncertain over whether Auckland will find the more than $5 billion to progress major transport projects by 2020, the nearly $5 billion needed for new water infrastructure has been built into Watercare Services plans.

Watercare's Chief Infrastructure Officer Graham Wood says the company is investing almost $4.8 billion over the next 10 years in response to Auckland Council projections for population growth in the region.

Wood says the company has set aside around 41 per cent of the total planned investment for meeting the Council's requirements for regional growth; 31 per cent for renewing existing water and wastewater infrastructure; and 28 per cent for ensuring the required level of service to customers is maintained.

The Auckland Council-controlled organisation currently supplies water and wastewater services to over 1.4 million customers, and is budgeting for expenditure of around $2.27 million on water services and $2.44 million on wastewater services for the decade to 2022.

Wood says Watercare must balance the income received from the company's water and wastewater customers with continuing investment in its $7.8 billion of assets, so that high levels of service are maintained, public health and environmental considerations are addressed, and Watercare is suitably prepared to manage Auckland's forecast population growth.

To ensure Watercare's planned investment meets the changing needs of the city, the company reviews expenditure forecasts and asset management plans annually.

Watercare is budgeting for several large-scale infrastructure projects during the next decade, including the $800m Central Interceptor wastewater tunnel project, the $350 million Hunua 4 Watermain pipeline, and the $265m North Harbour Watermain duplication project.

These projects each form a part of Watercare's long-term strategy to meet anticipated population growth in the Auckland region and subsequent increases in demand for treated drinking water and wastewater services, says Wood. In addition, the company is investing $100m into the upgrading and expansion of rural water treatment plants, an investment designed to improve water quality and security of water supply for customers across the greater Auckland region.

By law, Watercare is required to manage its operations efficiently with a view to keeping overall costs of water supply and wastewater services to its customers at minimum levels. In July 2012 Watercare reduced the retail cost of water services for Auckland consumers by an average of 15 per cent.

Since integration in November 2010, Wood notes that Watercare has achieved regional cost efficiencies of more than $100m.

In 2011/12 Watercare worked to further minimise operating costs and achieved savings of $3.5 million in procurement.

- NZ Herald

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