This week Mayor Rehette Stoltz met with Ministers, including the Minister for Local Government Nanaia Mahuta to discuss the Three Waters reform proposal.
Government is proposing to move the management of the three waters away from individual Councils to one of four publicly-owned regional entities. Tairāwhiti has been included with Hawkes Bay, Wellington and the top of the South Island in a group of 21 Councils called Entity C.
“We have concerns and they have been reinforced with a report that Council has independently commissioned,” said Mayor Stoltz.
“I’ve made those concerns very clear with Ministers and our discussions were open and informative. They were impressed with our reasoned response to the reform proposal.
“While we agree with Government that change is needed, our concerns are particular to our region.
Proposed benefits of the reform include greater financial affordability, access to water services and higher overall water standards.
“While we can see the benefits of the reform, we can also see the disadvantages. It’s not clear if there is a net benefit to our region, so that question still hasn’t been answered.”
The independent report commissioned by Council has found inconsistencies in the data used by Government to model the projected impact on Tairāwhiti without Three Waters Reform.
Data released by Government shows without big changes, local ratepayers could be paying more than $8690 per year for drinking water, stormwater and wastewater services by 2051, compared to $1260 without reform.
Council has worked with strategic advisory firm Castalia to understand how Government has arrived at these figures.
The report indicates the data is based on incorrect assumptions and that the estimated required investment into our local infrastructure has been overstated by at least $1.75b.
Government has used the Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS) as a model for the reform. The report has suggested the comparison isn’t compatible with New Zealand because of differences in population densities of the two countries, and distances between urban areas.
Council will request clarification on the issues raised in the report when formal feedback is sent to Government next week.
The community can give feedback on the proposal and read the full Castalia report at https://www.gdc.govt.nz/services/water-services/three-waters-reform. Feedback closes at 12pm Monday 27 September.