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CDC committee: ‘Where is the money’?

Carterton District Council’s Audit and Risk Committee has expressed its “profound disappointment” about the government “reneging” on the second tranche of Better Off funding.

Last month, the government quietly withdrew a $1.5 billion sweetener for councils in its reset of the Three Waters Reforms.

The first tranche of funding was allocated in 2022, worth $500 million nationally: Carterton got $1.7 million, Masterton $3.88 million, and South Wairarapa $1.88 million.

The second tranche, which would have been available from July 2024, was worth $5.1 million to Carterton, $11.65 million to Masterton, and $5.63 million to South Wairarapa.

At last week’s Audit and Risk Committee meeting, Carterton Deputy Mayor Dale Williams said the council should publicly express its “anger” at the “reneged promise”.

“I mean, that was part of the initial bribe to enable council support for the Affordable Waters and Three Waters buy-in,” Williams said. “The icing on the cake was the two tranches of government investment in our communities.

“To give us 25 per cent, and then decide at a whim to withdraw 75 per cent is just extraordinary, and yet they got away with it.

“I wouldn’t want us to miss the opportunity to say that.”

Councillor Steve Cretney said: “Especially if you used that 25 per cent to start a project you now can’t finish.”

Independent committee chair Philip Jones “totally agreed” with Williams.

“They have got away with it.

“The government wasn’t giving that money from their own coffers though, they were actually giving it from your coffers.

“They were asking the water entities to fund that second tranche by way of debt.”

He said the fact that the second tranche is now unavailable suggested that the 10 proposed regional water services entities [up from four entities] “won’t be financially viable”.

Larger combined water entities would have been able to borrow more money.

Reflecting on the day the Three Waters reset was announced, Carterton District Council chief executive Geoff Hamilton said the reneging of the second tranche of Better Off funding was “never highlighted, it was buried”.

After discussion, the council’s committee passed a resolution expressing its “profound disappointment of the reneging of the committed tranche two Better Off funding of $5.1m, which poses additional risks to the council”.

Responding to similar concerns from councils around New Zealand, Local Government Minister Kieran McAnulty said the government decided not to move ahead with the $1.5 billion second phase of Better Off funding to meet the additional costs of establishing 10 entities.

“Because $1 billion of the Better Off funding was to have been provided by water services entities borrowing, this will free up the same amount for the entities to invest in their drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater networks.

“The remaining $500 million, which was to be funded by the Crown, will instead be used to help offset the higher costs of transition and entity establishment.”

The “no worse off” funding package of $500 million will remain, which will help ensure that no council is left worse off as a result of the costs and financial impacts of the transition process, McAnulty said – NZLDR

    Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air


  1. Trust councils? Thought rate payers where asked 🤔 to attend a conciliation meeting? Sounds like councils had made there minds up ( they where brought) councils need to be held accountable for their actions.

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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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