Auckland Mayor Phil Goff pleads Government to fast-track Waikato River application as drought deepens

Aucklanders will face more water restrictions if the Government doesn't quickly allow the council to draw more water from the Waikato River. 

Mayor Phil Goff wants the project added to the list of 11 the Government's funding to speed up the post-COVID-19 recovery.

If that doesn't happen, 14,000 jobs could be affected. 

The record-breaking drought has left Auckland dams at depressingly low levels - and they're forecast to get even worse.

"We will have less than average rain during winter and spring, and that makes very real the prospects of severe water restrictions come this summer," Mayor Goff says.

On Monday, he pleaded with the Environment Select Committee to fast-track Auckland's application to take an extra 200 million litres of water every day from the Waikato River.

It would join the likes of the Skypath and an upgrade to Wellington's rail network that the Government is proposing to push through in a bid to reinvigorate the economy.   

"This is an unprecedented approach from us, but we're in unprecedented times," Goff said.

Auckland Council's been trying to take more water from the Waikato for seven years, but the application has stagnated - it's still 106th in line for resource consent.

But as the effects of a one-in-200-year drought continues to worsen, time is now of the essence. 

The worst-case scenario includes options like completely turning off water for part of the day, and reducing pressure to just a trickle. On top of that, up to 14,000 jobs could be affected too - mainly in the construction and food-processing industries.

"We can't afford to close down this country's biggest city," Goff says.

However with a drier than normal winter and spring looming, that's now a distinct possibility.