Ninety five percent of Waimakariri residents want the Council to ‘opt-out’ of the Government’s Three Waters Reform according to a recent survey.
In September Waimakariri District Council outlined the Government’s reform proposal as well as a number of concerns about the proposal and asked residents for their views.
Waimakariri Mayor Dan Gordon said residents have expressed a very clear position and the survey results clearly demonstrate public concerns about the Government’s pre-determined and fixed-view on the case for change.
The Government is promoting reform where Council-run water, wastewater and stormwater services are transferred to four major entities as part of its Three Waters Reform Programme. This is in line with its push for greater centralisation of public services like health, the Resource Management Act and polytechnics.
If the Three Waters Reform goes ahead, Waimakariri District would become part of an entity that covers most of the South Island. The Government has given councils until the end of September to provide feedback on the proposal.
“There is a clear message from residents that they do not support this reform proposal. Residents are not happy about losing control over their assets and infrastructure, they value local say and management, and they have a number of valid concerns the Government needs to listen to,” says Mayor Gordon.
The Council received over 3800 submissions over a three week period. Residents expressed concerns about:
· Losing local say, knowledge and control on how water services are provided
· Rates being used to subsidise upgrades in other areas
· Wanting local management and provision of Three Water Services
· Appropriate compensation for transfer of community assets
· They sought for the reform proposals to take place alongside wider Future for Local Government and Resource Management Act (RMA) reforms
· Serious concerns were raised about the accuracy of the proposed efficiencies behind the proposal for change.
The Waimakariri District Council had the Government proposal independently reviewed. The review raised concerns about core assumptions behind the proposal for change and questioned the proposed efficiencies.
It also queried whether the Scottish model, which these reforms are based on, is applicable nationally as well as to the Waimakariri District. This research also raises serious questions regarding the discrepancies in the proposed costs with and without reform, and a requirement for all associated reform (RMA and economic regulation) to take place in conjunction for the proposal to be successful.
Other Councils such as Whangarei District Council also had the Government proposal reviewed and further debunked the cost-saving claims and refuted proposed efficiencies of amalgamation and predictions of massive price increases.
Waimakariri District Council and all Canterbury Mayors are calling on the Government to press pause and work with councils and communities on this issue.
“Everyone agrees that quality drinking water and better environmental outcomes are essential. The Council however doesn’t accept the premise that there is only one way to achieve these outcomes. Rushed reform won’t benefit anyone.”
“The case for change nationally is flawed and Waimakariri residents are overwhelmingly saying that they don’t support the proposal. I think the proposal as it stands is inaccurate and out of touch,” says Mayor Gordon.
The Council will decide on the formal response to give the Government at a special meeting on Tuesday 28 September.