Waimakariri District Council Make Submission on Three Waters Reform

Waimakariri District Council say the Government’s proposed Three Waters Reform model is flawed and are seeking to opt-out.

On Tuesday, the Council finalised the feedback they would be providing to the Government on the reform proposal to transfer control of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure from 67 councils nationwide to four independent entities.

If the Three Waters Reform goes ahead as proposed, Waimakariri District would become part of an entity that covers most of the South Island.

In a summary of feedback the Council noted its opposition to the Government’s proposed model, questioned the reliability of underlying data, and reiterated the results of community feedback which showed 95 percent of respondents wish to opt-out, among other points.

There was 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 that need to be listened to.

“Everyone agrees that quality drinking water and better environmental outcomes are essential. However, the reform proposal as it stands has a fixed view on the solution and the Council doesn’t accept that there is only one way to achieve these outcomes,” says Mayor Dan Gordon.

“There are a number of alternative ways to resolve the issues facing the sector. As this proposal stands, where the case for change has been shown to be flawed, it is unreasonable to expect the Council to transfer $602 million of public assets and lose local control when it’s not in the best interests of the District.

“Waimakariri District Council, like all councils nationwide, began taking part in this process in good faith and on the understanding reform was voluntary with the ability for Councils to opt-out. I sincerely hope the Government shows similar good faith and honours this agreement.”

The staff report and feedback document to the Department of Internal Affairs recommends the Council seek to opt-out and makes a number of recommendations including:

  • Pressing pause to allow alignment with other local government reform processes, allow Taumata Arowai to be established and for there to be clarity about the incoming economic regulator. This has also been supported by the Canterbury Mayoral Forum
  • Properly assess alternative delivery options – looking at how best to balance local decision-making and economies of scale
  • Consider the Three Waters Reforms, the replacement provisions for the Resource Management Act, and the Local Government review together collectively
  • Consider how to maintain the ability councils currently have to steer, direct and facilitate growth. This would make sense to consider as part of the RMA reforms
  • Look to increase community involvement in decision making – including the ability for local say in how services are provided. For example a community should be able to decide regarding chlorination of water supplies
  • There must be a strong sense of community engagement throughout the process.

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