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'More information needed' Waitaki gives feedback to Government on 3 Waters Proposal

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Waitaki District Council will meet next week to consider what feedback it will give to the Government on its proposals for 3 Waters Reform. Government has given all councils until the end of September to consider the proposals and offer feedback. Councils are not being asked whether to opt in or out of the proposed changes at this stage, but instead, to consider the proposals and set out areas of concern or where proposals could be improved.

To help the Council formulate its response, Council Officers have prepared a report which gives analysis of the impacts of the Government’s proposed three water service delivery model, including on the Waitaki community and its wellbeing. It has been collated from many sources of information supplied by the Department of Internal Affairs, and also gathered through numerous meetings and workshops involving staff and elected members from Waitaki and other Councils over the past 18 months.

The report suggests there are aspects of the Government’s proposal that Council should consider supporting, such as the commitment to deliver three waters services to higher standards and to achieve better environmental outcomes as long as these are cost effective, but that there are a number of unknown factors associated with the timing of the water reforms in the context of the Government’s wider reform programme.

The report suggests Waitaki should not support the current financial case for change, believing it is flawed and likely overstated. It also states that the aspiration to connect all individual households across New Zealand (urban and rural) to a reticulated water and wastewater system, is not believed to be sustainable, practical or reasonable in the New Zealand context.

The report highlights concerns with the governance model as presented by Government as it does not clearly indicate how the voice of communities will be heard, nor does it provide strong connections between infrastructure planning and planning for growth at the regional and local level.

Overall there is a call for more information, including clarity on environmental and service levels, as well as the timing for Councils to be able to have proper consultation with their communities.

Once the Council has considered the issues raised in the report and agreed on its position, Waitaki Chief Executive, Alex Parmley will respond to the government. Mr Parmley said, "3 Waters reform is a really important issue for Council, residents of Waitaki and New Zealand overall. There is a lot of information to digest and some big decisions ahead for government and council. Those decisions will impact us all for decades, so we need to ensure we get the best outcome for our district and communities."

Mayor Gary Kircher said, "The community’s views on the Three Waters reform will be critical in the decision the council is being asked to make at some point in the future. We want to ensure everyone understands what is proposed so that when residents are asked what they think, they can have their say based on the facts. There is a lot of incorrect information out there, so we are preparing a series of information videos explaining the key focus of the 3 Waters reform and what these proposed changes will look like for Waitaki water services. Those videos will be released next week and articles sharing this same information will be appearing in the Oamaru Mail. Only once the public are fully informed and Council has received more information from Government and gained an understanding of the community’s views will the Council make any decisions on the reforms."

When feedback from all councils across New Zealand has been received by the end of September, the Government will make some further decisions about the service delivery model of Three Waters.

The Waitaki District Council’s report will be available on the Agenda page of the council’s website.

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