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Act Now or Pay (Much More) Later: Warning on Auckland’s Water Woes

Photo RNZ/Finn Blackwell

A sustainable finance expert has warned that failing to fix Auckland’s stormwater infrastructure now will cost the city much more in the long run.


ANZ’s Head of Sustainable Finance Dean Spicer made the comments as Auckland Council considers feedback on its “Making Space for Water” stormwater proposals.


“After the Auckland Anniversary weekend floods, the council estimated it would cost $1.65 billion over six years to address the issue,” Spicer said. 



At the time, Mayor Wayne Brown said the council didn’t have this kind of money available and would need to look at other sources of finance.


“It’s a daunting prospect, but it’s clear the cost of inaction will be far greater than the price we’ll pay if we don’t address the issue now,” Spicer said. 


“We simply can’t afford to kick it down the road.”


The council’s proposal includes removing properties from high flood risk areas and stormwater improvements to reduce flood risks.


It also includes the building of what are termed ‘blue-green’ networks - reserves which can be used by the community on dry days, while providing open spaces for water to flow through during storms.


Te Auaunga/Oakley Creek in the Auckland suburb of Mount Roskill is regarded as a blueprint for what can be done in other flood-prone parts of the city.


The existing concrete channel along a 1.3 kilometre section of the stream has been replaced with a wider, naturalised stream channel.


The new channel has been planted with hundreds of thousands of native plants - trees, ferns and flaxes - grown at a nursery set up at a local school.


This has increased the stream’s capacity while also restoring its ability to soak water naturally into the ground.


“Instead of fighting against nature – which, as we have seen, can be futile – green infrastructure projects like Te Auaunga work with it, factor it in, and give it the space it needs,” Spicer said.

“Instead of fighting against nature – which, as we have seen, can be futile – green infrastructure projects like Te Auaunga work with it, factor it in, and give it the space it needs.”

Dean Spicer, Head of Sustainable Finance, ANZ New Zealand



“They are an economically sound way to manage flood risk. Over time they are more cost-effective, through the damage and disruption they prevent and the environmental and social co-benefits they deliver. International studies estimate they have a cost: benefit ratio of 5:1”


While traditionally funded from public budgets, Spicer believes the financial pressure on councils will compel them to look for funding elsewhere.


“Green Bonds – like the $300m, 5-year bond issue ANZ jointly led for Auckland Council in September – are a great way to raise capital for new and existing projects with environmental benefits,” he said.


“There are also a growing number of impact investors and funds eager to invest in projects thatresult in more sustainable land use, cleaner water, and greater biodiversity.”


Spicer believes all sectors have a role to play when it comes to climate change adaptation, but the enabling role finance can play puts it in a unique position.


“More than ever, the finance sector needs to act as a matchmaker between those needing funding for green infrastructure – like Auckland Council - and investors who are interested not only in long-term financial returns, but also contributing positive societal impacts.”


Public feedback on Auckland Council’s “Making Space for Water” stormwater proposals are currently being considered by its governing body and are expected to inform its response plan.


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