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Greater Wellington joining water reform group

Greater Wellington Regional Council [GWRC] is joining councils across Wellington and Wairarapa in an advisory oversight group looking at joint water service delivery reform.

The advisory group comprises representatives from 10 councils across the Wellington region.

GWRC has chosen councillor Ros Connelly to represent it on the group, with council chair Daran Ponter as the alternate representative. Wairarapa representatives are Carterton District Council Mayor Ron Mark, Masterton District councillor David Holmes, and South Wairarapa District councillor Colin Olds.

A report tabled at last week’s GWRC council meeting set out how local authorities are approaching the replacement framework for managing water services delivery that follows the recent repeal of ‘affordable water’ legislation.

“Councils in the Wellington region are facing stark challenges to meet the investment needed for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure,” the report said, citing several reviews on the subject since 2016.

“These reviews have confirmed that significant and sustained investment is required over the coming decades to ensure councils can continue to enable growth, provide safe drinking water, improve environmental water quality, and are resilient to future seismic and climate change events.

“Change is coming to how water is regulated and managed by local authorities. The Government has repealed the Water Services Entities Act 2022 and set out the process and legislative changes required to give effect to their Local Water Done Well policy.”

The new policy is based on the premise that change is required and will happen.

While the report said the policy is still under development, indicative requirements include councils developing the water services plan within a year. The transition plan to the new model has to meet regulatory and investment requirements, maintain water quality, and be financially sustainable.

The government has signalled it intends to give effect to the new policy through two pieces of legislation, the first to be passed in mid-2024.

“This legislation is expected to set out a clear framework for councils to develop a future water service delivery plan within 12 months of enactment. It is also expected to set out the foundations for economic regulation and streamline requirements for establishing council-controlled organisations under the Local Government Act 2002,” the report said.

The second bill is expected to be enacted by mid-2025. It will focus on the long-term requirements for financial sustainability, an economic regulation regime, and a new range of structural and financing tools, including a new type of financially independent council-controlled organisation.

The report acknowledged substantial additional financial investment is needed, potentially through new funding mechanisms.

“This level of investment is not possible for local government under current borrowing settings, and any attempts to increase expenditure through rates will be unaffordable for communities. Raising revenue through volumetric water metering is an avenue that could help with funding the cost of water drinking services.”


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