Local hands - stormwater networks and rural water supplies.
The Hurunui District is home to a complex stormwater network and many mixed-use rural water supplies, both of which would suffer greatly under two of the government’s proposed Bills to manage the Three Waters Reform.
Last week Hurunui District Council (HDC) submitted to the government’s Select Committee via Zoom, outlining some of its concerns.
Under the Water Services Legislation Bill there were concerns raised around the definition of a Stormwater Network.
Mayor Marie Black and Chief Executive Officer Hamish Dobbie spoke to the HDC submission to the Select Committee, firstly stating that its large rural district is home to a dozen small townships involving a stormwater network which runs continuously between urban and rural areas, with a Council-managed roading network acting as a key infrastructure component.
They highlighted the difficulty of the proposal in the Bill for one body administering the urban part of the network and another body administering the rural and roading stormwater.
“We are promoting a need for a comprehensive management system,” said Mayor Black.
She said it does not make sense that the ownership of all Council stormwater assets, plant, personnel and consents would pass to the new Water Service Entity.
“This means that all Council would be left with is the most extensive and difficult parts of the stormwater to manage.”
The second part of the Council’s submission to the select committee touched on mixed-use rural water supplies.
Mayor Black said being a predominantly rural district means drinking water networks on a rural property may be one line or multiple tanks, sometimes serving a number of houses and stock. She added that the government’s proposed requirement of an 85% threshold of agricultural use is too high and has no way of being accurately calculated.
“There is no real scientific basis for this threshold, and it does not appear to fit real world situations.”
In their submission, Mayor Black and Dobbie took the opportunity to also raise concerns The Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill, which oversees water regulation.
Concerns were raised about the potential conflict in the roles of the water regulator Taumata Arowai and the Commerce Commission, both of which would rein aspects of control over water regulation.
“This creates an opportunity for regulators to trip over each other,” said Mayor Black.
On Monday Communities 4 Local Democracy He hapori mō te Manapori (C4LD) submitted to the Select Committee, confirming its position to placing local control and voice back at the centre of community water services, and puts the right measures in place to ensure overall accountability.
As an early adopter of C4LD, Mayor Black said HDC remains deeply involved with this group, which represents 30 councils and around 1.2 million Kiwis, collectively believing they can do better than the current ‘one size fits none’ proposals from the government.
“I firmly believe that by retaining ownership of our three waters service assets and delivery, we can still remain affordable and locally responsive.”