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02/04/2024

Alliance Calls For Urgent Investment In Water Infrastructure

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Alliance Infrastructure spokesperson, Patrick Brown MLA, has highlighted the urgent need for investment in water infrastructure, following a newly published report from the NI Audit Office.

It is said that the projected £1 billion deficit will mean NI Water can no longer carry out crucial projects aimed at expanding their network's capacity and meet the current demand for water infrastructure. This report comes ahead of Executive Ministers agreeing a budget for the forthcoming financial year, and identified the stark risks associated with continued underfunding of this vital service.

In a statement, the South Down MLA has said: "This report is timely and an important reminder of what we already knew about Northern Ireland’s water infrastructure; that it is underfunded, has been chronically neglected as economic infrastructure, and requires prioritisation within the forthcoming budget.

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"As a member of the Infrastructure Committee, we have received numerous briefings in recent weeks from departmental officials regarding the cost requirements of their 5 year investment plan, PC21, and the detrimental impact that failing to fund water infrastructure will have, such as on our economy, housing development, efforts to tackle pollution, and regeneration plans in our towns and villages.

"On the 9 April the Assembly will debate a motion on the challenges facing NI Water. During this debate, Alliance will highlight the need to prioritise investment in our water infrastructure, and that the current status quo of expecting first class services on a Cinderella budget simply can’t continue. This will require leadership and innovative thinking around how we meet investment requirements for the water network now and in the future.

"With that in mind, Alliance particularly welcomes the report’s recommendation that the Department and NI Water complete a comprehensive review of the alternative funding and governance arrangements possible. We have long since expressed concern that the current model is unsustainable, and have, for example, supported the idea of mutualising NI Water with guidance from the Fiscal Council.

"Of course there’s a cost to making the transformative changes we need. However, facing likely environmental damage, lack of economic development, and the limitation of our ability to build new houses, the cost of not making these investments is even greater."

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