Councillors unanimously oppose proposed Three Waters Reform model
Hurunui District Councillors have formally resolved to oppose the government’s proposed Three Waters Reform model.
At the final Council meeting of 2021, the 10 Councillors around the table unanimously agreed that the current proposed Reform, to create four water entities across New Zealand, is not suitable for the Hurunui District. Councillors noted that they were not against reform of the three waters but they were opposed to the model proposed by the government.
Reasons for opposing the government’s reform model included - It is largely based on economic modelling undertaken by the Water Infrastructure Commission of Scotland (WICS) which contains incorrect assumptions which lead to the significant financial overstatement particularly regarding the amount of stock water in the District; The proposed model is complex and not fit for purpose with an effect of distancing accountability; The government claims that Councils will continue to own the three waters assets, thus absolving itself from its duty to pay Councils for the assets they propose to transfer to the new water entities; There is no clear definition of how stormwater will be treated; and Council was denied the opportunity to opt in or out of the Reform before it was mandated, despite signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with government last year.
Mayor Marie Black said there was no doubt around the Council table that all these points raised were valid, adding that Council cannot by definition continue to own the three waters assets if the assets no longer appear on its balance sheet and it has no direct control of the assets.
“Overall, the Council is of the view that the government’s proposed model to reform the three waters service delivery is poorly defined, is seriously flawed in its economic analysis and negatively impacts local democracy and control.”
During the recent formal consultation process, more than 100 submissions were received from residents throughout the District which expressed a range of views on whether Council should oppose the proposed reform model.
Mayor Black said “I am pleased at the high level of community engagement and the constructive feedback we have received from the community to influence our thinking on this matter. It is great to have our community behind us as we continue to oppose the government’s proposed Three Waters Reform model.”
Government recently announced it will delay its next stage of legislating the Reform until February, backtracking on the original deadline month of December.
The Three Waters Entity Bill was supposed to be introduced by government this month, however it was recently announced government will wait until an independent Working Group has had a chance to submit feedback in the new year. The Working Group was created in response to concerns expressed by the sector about the proposed model, and it will be examining the model’s governance, representation and accountability.
When the Bill is introduced, anyone in the Hurunui District will be able to get involved in the select committee process, and the Council encourages everyone to submit feedback directly to the government about the proposed Reform.
Last week Mayor Black joined 22 other Mayors from around New Zealand, as they gathered in Parliament to talk with members of Labour, National, ACT, Green Party and Local Government Minister Hon. Nanaia Mahuta.
This group, ‘Communities 4 Local Democracy – He hapori mō te Manapori’ was created in response to serious concerns about the proposed Three Waters Reform.
Mayor Black said the collective message about the Mayors declaring their support for the drinking water regulator Taumata Arowai, accepting the desire for improved environmental outcomes and supporting that mana whenua should be involved with three waters investment decisions, was well received.
“Like the government, we also want to ensure all New Zealanders have access to safe drinking water, and we believe we already have the ability to achieve this within our own Council entity.”
Concerns raised were the loss of community property rights and the need for direct community input into local decision. All political parties received the deputation with a high level of support, articulating strong agreement to the position that Communities for local democracy stand for.
“I felt proud to be representing the significant voice of Hurunui District,” said Mayor Black.