Answers still needed on Three Waters Reform
You would have heard about the massive shake up in water management being proposed by the Government, including a brand new national regulator.
In short, they’re proposing to shift responsibility for our Three Waters – water supply, wastewater, and stormwater – from local government into four large entities known as water supply entities. Each entity would be governed by an independent board. At this stage, participation remains voluntary, but we are not at the point of having to make a decision on that.
For the Western Bay we would find ourselves as part of a central North Island entity involving 22 councils in the greater Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and parts of Manawatū-Whanganui. The change would not come into place until 2024 and councils will continue to manage three waters services until then.
However, while there is plenty of water to flow under the proverbial bridge before a final decision is made, I’d like to clear up a few points on where Council fits into the process given the community interest on this topic.
As part of the reform Council would receive $21.3 million out of the $2.5 billion Three Waters Reform package. But right now we are not being asked to decide to opt in or out of the reform.
Like all councils we've been given an eight-week window to study the Government's proposal, understand the likely effect it would have on us and provide feedback to the Government by 1 October. Government wants to hear in the feedback about questions and concerns we may have identified, and how the proposal could be strengthened.
For us this includes undertaking an analysis of Council information to assess the impacts of Three Waters Reform, comparing the reform scenario to the scenario where Council continues to deliver the service, taking a long term view. This analysis covers several areas including service levels, finance and funding, workforce and capability, and social, community and economic well-being.
We understand our community has a vested interest in how our District's Three Waters services are delivered in the future. But many of the details of the programme are still unclear, including whether participation remains voluntary.
Which is why it is too early to ask you what you think.
Remember, the reform programme is led by Government, not by councils. We’re still receiving information on the reform proposals because we still have questions about it. Fortunately, we have not yet been asked to make any final decision.
So before we can have a community conversation, we need to understand the final proposal, what opportunities, risks and trade-offs it presents, and what decision councils are being asked to make.
The Government has indicated that once it's heard back from all councils, it will decide on the next steps. After October 1 we expect further information which will give us a clearer picture about how best to discuss this with our communities.
While there is there is still uncertainty about the final outcome I can assure you that our communities will be a part of the conversation when the time is right.