Mayoral Statement on Three Waters Reform
Released: Thursday 29 July 2021
Many people will be aware that the Government is proposing significant changes to how our three waters (drinking water, wastewater and stormwater) are managed in New Zealand.
The Government is proposing to establish four new entities covering the whole of the country. These entities will take over the management and ownership of the three waters infrastructure and service delivery. South Waikato is included with all of the Waikato region (including Hamilton), Bay of Plenty region (including Tauranga and Whakatane), Taranaki, Ruapehu, Whanganui and Rangatikei Districts.
The Government believes it has established a valid case for change based on the financial requirements over the next thirty years to upgrade and manage this infrastructure to meet increasingly stringent environmental and health standards and ageing infrastructure.
I fully agree with the Government’s view that everyone in New Zealand should have access to clean, safe drinking water, and a healthy environment. I am also of the view that, here in the South Waikato, we are already delivering this. Speaking specifically for the South Waikato, I reflect on the age old expression, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
South Waikato’s urban communities have good three waters infrastructure, particularly in the water supply and wastewater area. We have already committed significant additional funding to infrastructure improvements over the coming years that is reflected in the previous and current LTP to cover growth, quality and the impact on our environment.
Over the coming months we expect to have robust wastewater consents in place with Waikato Regional Council for the next 35 years and our water treatment processes are in line with the NZ Drinking Water Standards.
Given our current strong position it is fair to say I have questions and concerns about the reforms; primarily around the lack of certainty now and throughout this process. This uncertainty raises suspicion.
With each new milestone announcement from Government on this reform, I am growing increasingly fearful that an opt out option is not actually on the table; and to be frank, perhaps never was.
I question how these new entities will ensure that the South Waikato community retains its voice over assets that our community has paid for.
Given our general good state of our infrastructure and the sound financial future management of replacement and maintenance, I question if ratepayers will be better off financially under the new proposal. In saying that, I do note that we have not received all the detailed information for our Council yet on the financial modelling so it is difficult to comment further until we do.
The Government has indicated bigger is better in this review. I challenge if enough work has been done to ensure that is the case from both an efficiency and financial perspective.
We have August and September to review the information and implications of this proposal. There is a lot of detailed information to go through. Councillors, myself and staff will be working through this information carefully over the coming weeks. As our thinking develops, we will share this with the community.
In closing, I believe it is imperative that the Government give councils the ability and time to consult with our communities before we make a decision on whether we support these reforms or not. Ratepayers are the owners and funders of these assets and they must have the ability to have their say about what this future looks like.
Mayor Jenny Shattock
ENDS. Words: 564