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'Extremely disappointed' - Waitaki reacts to Three Waters announcement

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Government today decided to push ahead with the 3 Waters reform, despite the concerns and queries of local Councils such as ours. This means that we will not have a chance to gather community feedback on the reforms as they are now mandatory.

Mayor Gary Kircher is extremely disappointed with the decision. "Councils bought into this reform process and the chance to have a dialogue with the community about it because it was supposed to be optional. We have acknowledged that there was a case for change, with the cost of continuing to improve the quality and performance of water assets increasing rates. However we are not convinced that the government’s solution is the one that suits Waitaki best. It is disappointing that we haven’t been able to engage properly on that!"

The Minister has made her commitment to reform clear. The Government has the numbers to push through the reform and the one-size-fits-all approach will be put in place. 

We provided feedback to the Minister analysing the proposal’s potential impact on our community and our concerns. Our council was specifically concerned about the financial implications of the reforms and the fact that the proposed model did not allow the voice of our community to be heard to any significant extent.

The analysis of all councils’ feedback shows the sector has serious concerns about the proposal. This includes concerns about ownership and control of water assets/local voice and prioritisation/interface and planning system/rural schemes/stormwater etc. The sector has said loud and clear that the model needs significant work. This work must be done in partnership with the sector.

The Government is setting up a working group to specifically work through governance, representation and accountability, which are at the heart of these concerns. Other technical reference groups will look at the interface with resource management reform and rural water supplier.

While the announcement stings for councils who have been good stewards of their infrastructure, ultimately the nation-wide affordability challenge in the water space needs to be answered. 

Council CEO, Alex Parmley said, "Ensuring that our residents and communities continue to have a say in how their water services are managed in the future has been important to us. It is disappointing they will not get their say on this reform but pleasing to see the government take on board our feedback that more needs to be done to ensure the voice of communities is heard in the new water entities. Our people and their job security are also important and at least this decision gives them certainty on the path forwards. It’s been a really unsettling time for them. The sector is under a lot of pressure and this is challenging."

What next? We will work through what these reforms will ultimately mean for Waitaki and set out clear information about the process and timeline, something which has been lacking till now. Watch this space.

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