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‘Biggest shake-up’ since 1989

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said the recent water proposals were the “biggest shake up” since 1989 reforms. PHOTO/FILE



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Reforms to national water standards will be the “biggest shake-up” local government has received in 30 years, Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson says.

At yesterday’s Masterton District Council [MDC] meeting, Patterson said the wide-reaching recommendations from central government would be the most significant since 1989’s local government legislation redrew boundaries across the country.

Central government has offered councils a significant cash package, but they have only four weeks to agree to it.

The cash is on offer to districts that enter a good faith agreement to start water projects that stimulate the post-lockdown economy, while also upping water standards.

They are signing up to one tranche, for a year, as the new water authority Taumata Arowai forms.

Later obligations will be met next year if councils seek to follow up their initial agreements.

These could include a shared services arrangement.

Concluding the public section of the meeting, Patterson said the deal would have an extended legacy.

“These Three Waters reforms, no matter where they land, will be the biggest shake-up of local government since the 1989 reforms, in 30 years.

“And we shouldn’t underestimate what that means, what consultation with our community will be, and the decisions we as a council will make around the Three Waters.”

She said Taumata Arowai would “be great, to have a water regulator with some teeth” to bring failing councils and water providers into line.

Masterton councillors, some reluctantly, resolved to confirm a report from MDC chief executive Kath Ross to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding [MoU] with the Crown on the Three Waters reform.

Extra information was tabled at the meeting, as councillors and staff had only attended a final Department of Internal Affairs roadshow in Palmerston North on Tuesday.

Ra Smith, the Kahungunu ki Wairarapa iwi representative at the table, said he had four concerns about accepting the deal.

Smith, who is not able to vote, said he felt the lack of iwi and community consultation, hidden costs, and the use of the legislation as a “blunt tool” were troubling.

Councillor Tina Nixon said she felt the package was “a vote-buying exercise”, and “bad democracy”.

Further details on the $761 million stimulus package were revealed to elected officials and council staff this week.

To date, the focus has been on ensuring the new national water authority is set up and can set up standards for drinking water quickly.

Stormwater and wastewater, the other two of the “Three Waters” under review, were to be parked.

On Tuesday, central government revealed the regional split of the cash, in “notional funding allocations”.

Councils are encouraged to adopt a “shared services model”, with money on offer to schemes which show investment in “three waters infrastructure that support economic recovery”.

Each regional group of councils would have until 30 September 2020 to agree on how best to apportion the regional funds to the individual territorial authorities that make up the region.

About $50m of the pool will be kept in the capital to set up the national water monitor, Taumata Arowai.

Wellington City Council itself was one of the major beneficiaries, with almost $11m offered to fix their leaky pipes.

According to Department of Internal Affairs documents, Masterton District have been allocated $2.2m should it sign up, Carterton District $920,000, and South Wairarapa District, $1.42m.

Carterton and South Wairarapa Districts are holding meetings later this month, where the subject may be debated in public.


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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