Council identifies significant issues with Three Waters direction
Western Bay of Plenty District Council is seeking more clarity and information on the Government’s Three Waters reform proposal before it engages with the community on the District’s involvement.
Council this week discussed an initial analysis of the Government’s draft proposal to shift responsibility for councils’ Three Waters – water supply, wastewater, and stormwater – from local government into four large entities known as water supply entities.
The Government is currently seeking feedback on the potential impacts of the proposed reform, with responses due by 1 October 2021.
Western Bay Mayor Garry Webber says Council’s initial review highlighted significant issues with the direction of the Three Waters reform to date.
These include concerns about the proposed governance framework and how councils and communities could influence decisions that need to be made by the proposed new water entities. Councils must be able to influence decisions about setting priorities for growth of the Three Waters networks as well as setting the priorities for ongoing maintenance and upgrades of existing assets. The status of asset ownership and control was not clear in the proposed framework and it was important this was clarified.
Council also identified concerns with the credibility of Government’s financial projections under reform, and in particular how they related to Western Bay of Plenty District Council’s Three Waters networks and their Long Term Planning provisions. Council needs more information to clarify how debt and funding mechanisms like financial contributions will be treated if reform went ahead.
Council strongly expressed its disappointment with Government’s public advertising campaign and lack of meaningful public communication which has resulted in local government having to shoulder the responsibility of explaining the Government’s reform direction to our communities.
Importantly, Council confirmed its intention to take any final credible proposal from Government to the Western Bay of Plenty community for consultation prior to making a decision to opt in or out of the reform proposal.
The areas of concern were identified through the eight-week window councils were provided to study the Government's current reform direction.
For Western Bay this included undertaking a long term view in the 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 services as the currently do. That analysis covered several areas including service levels, finance and funding, workforce and capability, and social, community, environmental and economic wellbeing.
Mayor Garry says Council has always done a good financially prudent job when investing in water infrastructure whilst providing a good service to its residents.
“Our council’s Three Waters infrastructure is fit for purpose and is future proof in our opinion. We have made the hard decisions and have the appropriate charging strategy to fairly charge our ratepayers for the cost of providing our Three Water services.
“However, from a national perspective this is the most complex reform, along with The Future of Local Government and Resource Management, that local government has faced for 30 years and therefore it is important this is a decision that is not rushed.”
It is against that background that before any community conversation can be had, Council needs to be absolutely confident that it understands any final proposal, what opportunities, risks and trade-offs it presents, and what decision councils are being asked to make.
“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.
“The Three Waters reform could potentially and significantly change the way water infrastructure and services are delivered in our District which is why our communities will be consulted extensively when the time is right.”
For more information on the Three Waters reform proposal visit our dedicated Three Waters reform page