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Three Waters entities: Do not want to be ‘big landholders’

New water services entities will have little interest in becoming landowners unnecessarily, the Department of Internal Affairs [DIA] says.

At a recent South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] workshop, a council staffer confirmed the entities “did not want to become big landholders”.

This comment was made regarding the uncertainty of whether SWDC land earmarked for wastewater irrigation would be transferred to the new water services entity.

In 2011, SWDC finalised its goal to have 100 per cent of the district’s wastewater irrigated to land by 2040.

When Hodder Farm in Featherston came up for sale in 2014, the council purchased the 166-hectare block on Murphy’s Line with the intention to use it for irrigation, alongside the Featherston Golf Course in 2018.

The district applied for resource consent for the upgrades to its Featherston operation in 2017, but overwhelming public opposition led to a series of hearings, which were cancelled three times.

The land is currently being used for wastewater irrigation trials.

DIA National Transition Unit executive director Heather Shotter said the new water services entities would be required by law to ensure the services were affordable for New Zealanders.

“That means they will be focused on ensuring that neither they nor their customers bear the costs associated with owning assets that are not required for delivering these services.

“Therefore, the water services entities will not want to be responsible for the operation of parks and reserves.

“Nor will they wish to own other land that would require maintenance or the payment of rates to councils unless it is essential for their operations.

“Only essential land holdings such as the land at a water treatment plant, or wastewater pump station, for example where the primary purpose of the land on which the asset sits, is for the provision of water services will transfer from councils to water services.”

The Water Services Entities Bill currently before Parliament allows for local councils to work with the new water services entities to decide which particular assets, including land, will be transferred.

The public will be informed of which assets will and won’t be transferred.

“Work has begun on this process, and over coming months, with the cooperation of councils, we expect to identify what assets, including land needs to transfer over to the water services entities,” Shotter said.

“There will be plenty of time for establishment entities and local government to work together to identify and agree on what land the entities require before anything transfers.

“The mechanism for actual transfer of land and other assets will be provided for in further legislation.”

Shotter said where the primary purpose of any council-owned land was as a park, “it will remain a park and remain in council ownership”.

“The public will have the same access to parks that they currently have and enjoy, and this will not be affected by the new water services delivery system.

“Within these parks, where there is critically important network infrastructure, water services entities will have rights of access to ensure the ongoing supply of water services to the public.” – 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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