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Council boss says Three Waters presents a risk

PHOTO/FILE

Carterton’s council boss Geoff Hamilton says the biggest risk in the Three Waters Reforms is “failure of delivery”.

When presenting to the Government’s Finance and Expenditure Committee, he said the Government needed a better partnership with council staff during the transition to new water services entities.

This would help ensure that when the new entities take over water management in July 2024, toilets can flush, tap water will flow, and the three waters networks will continue to run, he said.

Hamilton and Carterton Mayor Greg Lang presented Carterton District Council’s submission to the Water Services Entities Bill and did not hold back their criticisms of the legislation and process.

Lang said because Carterton was a large district with a very small population base, it was “very, very vulnerable” when changes were made in the local government sphere.

“Certainly, we support the intention of the Water Services Entities Bill, but we just see the processes we are going through are going to put our organisation at risk.”

He said, from a governance perspective, the council felt like they were “in a washing machine” as they tried to keep up with government reforms.

“It’s certainly hard from a governance point of view.

“Our staff have been co-operating and contributing to the National Transition Unit’s workstreams, local transition teams, and with Entity C groups who have been very proactive and supportive.

“We really seek the best outcomes for our transitioning employees, ensuring the continuous delivery of the three waters services to our community during the process of establishing the water services entities.”

Hamilton said transition arrangements to the water services entities model was the “biggest concern” for Carterton District Council.

“The biggest risk is failure of delivery.

“I think you’ve got a task on your hands to do it in two years, I really do.”

Hamilton said there was about 76km worth of reticulated pipe in Carterton’s water network

“Of this, about 26km, or 34 per cent is older than 50 years.”

Within, the wastewater network, there was about 66km of pipe, and about 45 per cent of this was older than 50 years.

“Both those networks will need to be replaced in the next 30 years, bringing an extraordinary burden on Carterton ratepayers,” Hamilton said.

He said the burden of infrastructure costs fell on ratepayers and so it was crucial they had a voice in decisions that were made.

He was concerned Carterton would lose this voice when the new water services entities were established.

“The reason I’m talking to you about all these things is because the community’s voice is one thing Carterton district councillors hear regularly when they go to the supermarket, or they walk down the street.

“[They hear] about whether or not we should have higher levels of service, lower rates, or more debt, in order to provide the services and infrastructure for the community.”

He was afraid Carterton would lose its voice when the new water services entities were established.

“It’s highly likely that a small rural council like Carterton district will lose our community voice, and we will lose our ability to control our future.

“That future is really important to our community, and it has been part of our strategy to develop water and wastewater services for our community.” – NZLDR

  • Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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