Publication:

Bush Telegraph - 2021-10-11

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More clarity sought on water reform

SPRING CONTRACTORS

Dave Murdoch

The Tararua District Council has voted to send a series of questions to Government seeking more information on its proposed Three Waters Reform Policy. New Zealand’s Government recently announced a proposal to change the way three waters services (drinking water, stormwater and wastewater) are provided across the country. Currently, each of New Zealand’s 67 councils is responsible for supplying and managing the provision of water services and infrastructure for their communities. The Government’s Three Waters Reform proposes to remove that responsibility from councils and place the provision of three waters services under four large water entities. One of those entities, Entity C, would cover the east coast of the North Island and the top of the South Island. Councils have been asked to opt into the policy or opt out. While some councils have already done so, Tararua District Council decided at its September 29 meeting to delay so it can ask the Government for clarification on certain issues before seeking Tararua residents’ opinion and then making a decision. This has to be done by December. Already there has been strong opinion voiced by members of the public, Richard Parker taking advantage of a 10-minute public forum spot at the meeting to express his opinion that the Government was using scare tactics to frighten local bodies into voting in favour of the proposal. Higher standards for water have been announced and the Government said it would meet them if the district opted in, but it is also saying for a district to go it alone and try to meet these standards by 2031 would cost it $9504 per household compared with present costs of $1595. Parker said that was likely to “scare the living daylights out of residents who read headlines and not the small print”. The topic was picked up later on the agenda, which began with CEO Bryan Nicholson saying the council was “on an eight-week fact finding mission before it made a decision”. He and group manager infrastructure, Chris Chapman, challenged the figures and this was followed by a wide-ranging discussion between councillors focusing on costs and the degree of representation and influence the council would have under the new system. This resulted in a unanimous vote to send up to 12 questions to government for clarification over boundaries, protection from privatisation, consultation, local authority influence and representation, staffing, the funding model and transition arrangements. Armed with the answers the TDC will inform and consult the public before a decision is made.

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