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LGNZ criticises time limit

As parliament enters its last few sitting weeks before the general election in October, the association that represents councils is criticising the government regarding the amount of time it allowed for feedback on upcoming water reform legislation, saying it is “disappointed”.

Local Government Minister and MP for Wairarapa Kieran McAnulty has responded by saying the time frame for submissions reflected the government’s intention to pass all legislation related to water reform before parliament rises at the end of August.

Legislative certainty in relation to the water reforms is needed and has been requested by the local government sector, McAnulty said.

A Local Government New Zealand [LGNZ] spokesperson confirmed that affected local authorities, the association itself, and others were given just under two weeks to submit feedback on the upcoming Water Services Entities Amendment Bill, which relates to what’s commonly referred to as three waters reform.

“LGNZ is disappointed by the tight time frame for making submissions on this bill. We are concerned that such significant legislation, which will fundamentally alter councils’ roles and responsibilities, is not being afforded the right level of scrutiny. The tight time frames have made it difficult for us to engage comprehensively with our members to understand their views on the bill,” the agency said in its submission.

“We also know it’s been difficult for our members to pull together their own submissions at a time when they are grappling with a significant amount of change and, in many cases, recovering from extreme weather events.”

McAnulty said that certainty in relation to water reform
is important and necessary.

“The time frame reflects the government’s long-signalled intention to pass all legislation to give effect to the water services reforms before the House rises for the general election on August 31,” he said.

“Legislative certainty is needed and has been asked for by the local government sector.

“As Minister, and local MP, I am determined to prevent ratepayers facing unaffordable bills in the future. To achieve this, certainty is needed for continuity of water service provision, planning and employment, and to provide clarity for ongoing transition and implementation activities.

“Feedback received is important as it helps strengthen the legislation governing our water services,” McAnulty said.

“Ever since being named Minister of Local Government, I have listened to feedback and adjusted things accordingly. If it’s a good idea and will help save ratepayers money, then I’m all ears.”

The Water Services Entities Amendment Bill is part of a suite of reforms to New Zealand’s drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater services. The bill, if passed, will amend the Water Services Entities Act 2022, which provides for the creation of new water services entities.

The Chairperson of the Governance and Administration Committee called for submissions on the amendment bill on June 23, with a deadline of July 5.

The select committee report is due this Thursday [27 July], after which the legislation goes into the second reading stage.

The bill will amend the Water Services Entities Act 2022, disestablishing the four water services entities it established, and replacing them with 10 entities more closely modelled on existing regions.

Controversially, ‘Better-off’ funding central government had promised local authorities is not part of the new bill.

The LGNZ submission is critical of this.

“Councils are deeply disappointed that the government has withdrawn the ‘better off’ component of the financial support package for local government,” it said.

“It is critical that the commitment to ‘no worse off’ funding is honoured, and water services entities must be mandated to make ‘no worse off’ payments. We’re concerned that there are no express requirements around this in the bill.”

The legislation will, however, allow a longer period for establishing the new entities, between 1 July 2024 and 1 July 2026, and provide for every territorial authority to be represented on a regional representative group, alongside mana whenua representatives.

A new Water Services Entities Funding Agency will be put in place as a financing mechanism alongside Crown financial support, and enable shared services arrangements, among a suite of other suggested changes.

LGNZ supports staggering and extending transition dates if councils are involved in those decisions.

The local government association said the process to establish the first entity needs broad local government input, because it will set precedents for all other entities.

LGNZ’s submission also points to a lack of clarity around whether Department of Internal Affairs oversight powers will continue to apply, given changes to establishment time frames, and said shared water services arrangements should support local outcomes.

“We are concerned that the proposed Water Services Funding Agency will compete with the Local Government Funding Agency, to the detriment of councils, and may create unintended risks,” the submission said.

– NZLDR
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t know why Mr McAnulty is so intent on passing the Act before the House rises given that his (dysfunctional) government is obviously heading for a hiding at the polls and the main opposition parties have publicly committed to repealing the legislation if elected. Arrogant to the end? It says it all that those representing local democracy (councils) are complaining about not being adequately consulted…….does this government really care what anyone else thinks?

  2. Perhaps Kiri Allen’s demise could be seen as a metaphor on this Government’s 3 Waters Reform Bill.
    Not a single council advocatesfor it unless they are already a fiscal basket case must

Comments are closed.

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