The resignation of Watercare chief executive Raveen Jaduram has sparked debate over who to blame for the city's water crisis.
The focus has shifted from Jaduram and turned to Auckland Council and the board of Watercare, chaired by a professional director Margaret Devlin.
Jaduram resigned from his $775,000 job yesterday following concerns about management's role in planning adequately for the exceptional weather conditions and worst drought in the city's crisis.
Jaduram has endured flak over the water crisis, which led to emergency spending of $224 million to bolster the city's water supply, restrictions on using hoses and water blasters outdoors and a four-minute limit on showers.
His salary of $775,000 - the highest of any executive at the Super City - also turned into a lightning rod during the crisis.
Jaduram has declined several requests from the Herald to talk about his resignation.
Other people, however, believe he is not solely to blame for the water crisis and Auckland Council and the board of Watercare are also responsible for planning failures.
Councillor Daniel Newman, who has worked at Watercare, said Jaduram had done a fantastic job delivering infrastructure but had become a popular target, particularly over his huge salary.
The council, he said, had to address its responsibility as the shareholder of the water company and accused the Watercare board of being asleep at the wheel.
"The board has been as active as an Easter Island statue.
"There has been a complete absence of energy and it's been left to the governing body of council to work with senior management within Watercare to fill the gap," Newman said.
He has questioned if Devlin is the right person to steer the board through the water crisis and a possible reorganisation of the city's water services, saying she has no interest in Auckland's future - "she lives in Hamilton" - and sits on a number of boards outside Auckland.
As well as chairing Watercare, Devlin is a director of Waikato Regional Airport, MetService, IT Partners Group, Aurora Energy, independent chairwoman of Waikato District Council's audit and risk committee, chairwoman of Women in Infrastructure Network advisory board, councillor at Waikato University, deputy chairwoman of Wintec, chairwoman of Lyttelton Port Company, director of Infrastructure NZ and chairwoman of Hospice Waikato.
Last month, the Tasman District Council appointed her to the board of Waimea Water.
In a statement to the Herald, Devlin, who is paid $108,000 to chair Watercare, said she and the board are fully committed to doing what is needed at this time.
"I remain confident in my and our ability to do this," she said.
Devlin also disputed any suggestion Jaduram was pushed, saying "the decision has been Raveen's".
She acknowledged there have been lessons from everyone involved with planning for the drought, but said major projects planned for future use have been brought forward.
"It is worth remembering that this is the worst drought on record and we remain grateful to Aucklanders for their response to it in making significant water savings," Devlin said.
Mayor Phi Goff said he had confidence in Devlin, saying she has invested far more hours in the governance of Watercare as it deals with the drought situation than would normally be expected from the chair of a board.
He said it is common for professional directors to sit on more than one board.
Councillor Chris Darby also took the view Jaduram should not be singled out and responsibility for the water crisis should be shared by the mayor, councillors and the management and board of Watercare.
"There has been a lack of long-range strategy to address Niwa's indications that we would be facing severe water shortages in the future," said Darby, who chairs the council's planning committee.
Darby said the board had woken up, saying Devlin had grabbed the issue and was working like never before to address the drought situation.
Former Watercare board chairman David Clarke, who hired Jaduram on a base salary of $510,000 in 2014, said he was the outstanding candidate from a New Zealand and Australia-wide search.
Clarke said as early as 2013 the board had forecasts saying that some time from 2021 to 2023 Auckland had to have major new water capacity with the climate change volatility.
"Now that has got worse, which brings the date forward. And lo and behold it happened in 2020," he said.
Clarke said he could not comment on what the board did after he left in 2016.
Asked if Jaduram should shoulder the blame for the water crisis, Clarke said "absolutely not".
"The problem with these sorts of organisations. You do get caught up in the politics of it all and often the politics and the truth are not highly correlated," said Clarke, saying he did not think Jaduram's $775,000 salary helped his cause.
A review of the council's five council-controlled organisations(CCOs), released last week, said Watercare rated very highly on service among feedback from the public, but this was tempered by many people who believed the company was unprepared for the drought.
The review, chaired by Miriam Dean, QC, said Watercare and the council had no response plan "as might be expected" and the council had no water strategy to deal with a drought.
Goff said there needed to be better strategic planning, saying the council and Watercare needed to share responsibility for that.
He also supported recommendations in the CCO review to strengthen strategic planning, monitoring and oversight of Watercare.