The Waikato District Council favours reform of the country’s ‘three waters’ but not in the way the government has proposed.
The council submitted feedback to the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) this week on the proposed three waters reform following an eight-week period of weighing up the pros and cons the reform could bring.
Councillors met on Tuesday to discuss the information received from the DIA and consider the challenges.
Over the period, the council talked with other councils that would form the proposed central North Island Entity B. Mayor Allan Sanson was an active participant in the cohort and has supported and coordinated discussions within the group.
“It has been valuable to discuss with fellow councils in the proposed Entity B the benefits that the reform could bring, as well as understanding the challenges,” he said.
“As a group, we were able to share information, ask questions and propose solutions in relation to the reform process.”
The council agreed that some level of reform needed to happen but “was not in a position to support the current proposal that the Government has put forward,” it said in a statement.
The council has not decided what it would support.
The proposed reform would bring together the drinking water, stormwater and wastewater services currently delivered by 67 different councils across New Zealand, into four competency-based entities. These entities would remain firmly in public ownership.
The reform promises to provide transparency about the delivery and costs of the services provided, as well as hold the entities managing the three waters asset accountable.
The council wanted to ensure that should the government proceed with the proposed reform its local focus was preserved and its growth path supported through the appropriate timing and provision of infrastructure.
The council was committed to its responsibilities under Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Te Ture Whaimana, and said it was important that jobs and infrastructure development were retained locally.
It was also a priority for the council to engage with the community and understand all perspectives on reform. Should the government progress with the proposal, Waikato District Council would undertake a consultation process where residents of the district would have an opportunity to voice their opinions.
In the feedback to the DIA, the council expressed concern that the governance arrangements of the proposed reform leave councils and mana whenua out of decision making, and it was unclear how much influence both parties would have.
The council now awaits the decisions from government which would inform any further steps of the proposed reform.
For more information, refer to the frequently asked questions page (FAQs) on the Waikato District Council website.