There is a "very simple" solution to Auckland's water shortage crisis, David Seymour says - but the Government isn't doing anything to fix it because it's not one of its "favoured projects".
The ACT Party leader says the Government should find it "embarrassing" that it can't get water from the Waikato River to New Zealand's largest city, which has seen dams dry up and water restrictions imposed as it battles a once-in-a-generation drought.
Auckland Council has applied to Waikato Regional Council to double the water it takes from the river, but the application is in a long queue. Under the Resource Management Act (RMA), councils are legally obliged to address each application chronologically.
Seymour says the Government has the power to change the law quickly - in a similar fashion to its changes to prisoner voting laws on Wednesday and military-style semi-automatic weapons legislation last year - but has opted not to.
"The solution is actually very simple," he told Magic Talk's Peter Williams on Friday morning.
"This Government has accepted the RMA's a problem - that's why they're putting through rushed legislation for their pet projects. They could easily make water from Waikato to Auckland one of those pet projects.
"If this was China, it would've been done years ago. Or they'd do it in the next few months… when it comes to getting infrastructure done I think we could learn a thing or two [from China]."
Seymour isn't hopeful of the Government intervening to alter the RMA, describing New Zealand as a country "where the Government actively prevents anyone from doing anything vaguely sensible".
And he's calling them out for hypocrisy after the RMA was amended on Friday to close a loophole that allowed consent for new builds without consideration for the environment.
"The RMA's now been reformed or amended 19 times - and that's why I say you've got to start again and replace it with a sensible legislation that has a bit more of a 'can do' attitude," he said.
"They're going to rush through exemptions from the RMA for Government-favoured projects - I think it's a question of priority.
"Surely it's embarrassing not to get water into the largest city in the country. Why is that not a priority? They've got to make it one."
Watercare has been taken to task in recent weeks - including at an Auckland Council meeting on Thursday - over its management of Auckland's water shortage.
Even Mayor Phil Goff, who has staunchly defended the council-controlled organisation, admitted "we needed more strategic planning than what we've had" - but Seymour says the criticism is unfair.
"Just remember, Auckland has had an application in to take water since 2012 - it's not as though they've been sitting round on their hands," he said.
"Everyone beats up on Watercare, [but] I've got to defend them in this instance - they've been trying to get permission to do this for eight years."
Auckland Council actually lodged its application in 2013, seven years ago.
On Thursday morning, the Government's Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones suggested fast-tracking the city's water allowance from the Waikato River was a good idea.
He also fired a warning at Waikato-Tainui iwi, saying it shouldn't stand in the way of the proposal.
"It is my view that under no circumstances whatsoever should the Waikato tribe - or any tribe - hold to ransom a third of the country's population," he told a select committee.