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Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson. PHOTO/GRACE PRIOR

Patterson selected to be part of the Three Waters working group

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson has been selected to be part of the government’s working group for Three Waters reforms.

The group is tasked with making recommendations on representation, governance, and accountability of the new water service entities which will manage water assets throughout New Zealand.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has said Three Waters reforms would be mandated because the case for change was compelling.

She said the reforms would “ensure that all New Zealanders get safe, reliable and affordable water services”.

The Working Group on Representation, Governance, and Accountability of new Water Services Entities is comprised of 20 members, including an independent chairperson, nine elected members of local authorities, nine iwi/Maori representatives, and the chair of the joint Central-Local Government Three Waters Steering Committee.

Members of the group were announced on Wednesday.

It will be independently chaired by Doug Martin, a highly experienced adviser in public sector organisational performance. He was a member of Auckland Council’s Council-Controlled Organisation Independent Review Panel and was appointed Crown Manager to Christchurch City Council to help it regain its accreditation as a building consent authority.

Patterson was “delighted” to have been selected.

Kaituna Water Treatment Plant.

“This is an opportunity for me to add a rural and provincial perspective, to look at the range of issues that have been raised by councils, and to contribute to the final framework for the governance, representation and accountability of the new entities.

“Having a local voice at the table is important. I look forward to positively contributing on behalf of all rural provincial regions across New Zealand as this work gets under way.”

Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty said the establishment of the working group was a step in the right direction to restoring faith in the reforms process.

He was pleased with the variety of opinions represented and noted that many of the members were high-profile critics of the process to date including Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, and Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel.

“I’m delighted Lyn is on the group. I know she has the support of a lot of mayors from around New Zealand.

“I wrote to the Minister suggesting Lyn would be a perfect candidate.

“She has the respect of rural provincial communities and us locally in Wairarapa.”

He said the reforms process to date had been less than ideal “and that is why it is so important to get this next step right”.

“It is critical that local voices are heard and critical we get this right.”

When the reforms were confirmed to be mandated, Patterson issued a public statement expressing disappointment that the Government had decided to proceed with its proposed model for the Three Waters Reform programme “with zero local community consultation”.

“I understand the Government’s responsibility is to all New Zealand, but mine is to our district,” she said at the time.

“These assets are owned by our community and I have real concerns about how our community will have any say in how they are managed.

“We are a district that has invested in infrastructure and maintained excellent standards around Three Waters for our ratepayers.

“My priority, and that of our council, is to ensure everyone in our district continues to receive Three Waters services to a high standard under these new entities.”

Mahuta said the working group would help develop solutions to sticking points around representation and accountability, and other critical issues for councils.

“New Zealanders need water services which will meet the diverse needs of our communities, needs our councils understand better than anyone, and we are confident this working group is the circuit breaker to get the model right,” she said.

“The working group will work in an open and transparent way, including by making its advice and recommendations publicly available.

It’s a bottom line for the Government that water services entities continue to be publicly-owned, have operational and financial autonomy to make much needed investment, and have oversight from local authorities and mana whenua.

“It is essential that our water services allow for local influence and democratic accountability.”

The working group will report back in March 2022, which ensures there is time for the advice and recommendations to inform the final entity design. — NZLDR

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