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Watercare Citizens’ Assembly. What should be the next source (or sources) of water for Auckland?

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Watercare Citizens’ Assembly. What should be the next source (or sources) of water for Auckland? Recommendations from the Assembly

August-September 2022



A citizens’ assembly is a form of public involvement in decision making where a representative sample of the public is invited to deliberate and make recommendations on a specific question. The organisation that posed the question then commits to taking on board the recommendations in future decision making.

12,000 invites were randomly sent out to people across the Auckland Metropolitan Network. 40 people representative of Auckland’s demographics were selected. These ranged from different educational backgrounds, ages, genders, living situations and ethnicities.

Out of the 40 people selected, 37 people attended and were tasked with finding the next future water source for Auckland. This task is important because we need to ensure that beyond 2040 our water supply is sustainable, resilient, reliable and adapts to climate change. We know that Waikato awa is not a source we can rely on forever. We also need to factor in the population and economic growth of Auckland.

In the sessions, six options were presented concerning Auckland’s future water source. These six options had been narrowed down prior to the assembly, however, alternative ideas were encouraged to be submitted if applicable.

During each session options were explored further with additional queries and information being provided by experts. There were also discussions surrounding the involvement and opinions of mana whenua.

In the final sessions, panels were held to discuss tikanga and mana whenua principles surrounding water. This included narrowing down the recommendations and figuring out what we found important as a group and what needed further discussion. The first draft of our collective final recommendations were presented to Watercare, these recommendations were finalised during the last session. We understand from mana whenua that everyone needs equal and fair access to water and that it is also a human right to have access to clean and fresh water. We also understand that it is the belief of some Māori that we must find something else for our future water source as what we currently have is not sustainable. We are in agreement with mana whenua and have taken on-board their perspective when deciding on the final recommendations to make to Watercare.

The common topics that often came up throughout these discussions were that cost and environmental impacts must be considered, and this is shown throughout each recommendation we have made. Education is also a key factor to ensure the recommendations are successful. After much collaborative deliberation, the following recommendations are what we believe would be the best options for Auckland's next future water source.

Recommendations (extracts)

A. Recycle Water

We recommend the implementation of direct recycled water as the next source of water for Auckland. Engaging the Auckland public in education on the safety and quality of the water is necessary to facilitate acceptance. ...

B. Desalination

We recommend Watercare continue research & investigation studies to understand the feasibility of desalination for the future as we believe it may be a required supplementary source if it is projected that we will not be able to meet our water needs with recycled water only. ...

C. Water Efficiency

To provide education and resources to consumers in reducing water usage. ...

Minority report on the public involvement in decision-making

We recommend that 2-3 people from the Assembly sit on Watercare’s steering committee, for future water sources ...


See also


Citizens' assembly project