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THREE WATERS: We want a fair share

PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

Mayors in call for a fair share

Wairarapa mayors are hopeful a raft of 47 Three Waters Reforms recommendations will be accepted by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

The recommendations include having subcommittees at a more local level and creating a public shareholding model for the four water service entities.

This means councils would own all the shares of each of the four water service entities if the recommendation is accepted by the government.

In October 2021, Cabinet agreed to progress the Three Waters Reforms so that drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater services would be provided by four publicly-owned water service entities from July 2024.

These entities would take over the responsibilities for water service delivery from local authorities.

A working group, comprising local government leaders such as Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson, presented their recommendations to the government this week.

South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen was pleased to see some of the issues raised by councils had been addressed by the working group.

“However, we will need to see if the Local Government Minister, as promised, accepts the recommendations, and what the eventual proposal actually is.

“We have only [last week] received a response to our questions posed to the government last year, and these answers, along with the final proposal from the government, will allow us to create a position following engagement with the public.”

Beijen said the proposed ownership structure appeared to address many concerns regarding ownership and the ability of future governments to privatise the assets.

“The proposed representative structure needs further discussion but prima facie is more appealing than the government’s initial proposal.”

He said both the response to councils and the proposed new Three Waters model would be considered as a whole council.

Carterton Mayor Greg Lang said his council had not yet had the opportunity to discuss the recommendations, but offered his personal views.

“To put in context, it is quite clear the government is going to go ahead with the reforms so it is essential that the recommendations – which Carterton District Council constructively feed into – are taken on board for the benefit of New Zealanders now and in the future.

“Councils having shareholding of the water service entities on behalf of our community is needed, especially since the community paid for these assets to be built.

“Also the addition of local representation gives more effect to our district plan outcomes, more local voice, and helps ensure local priority projects get priority in the water service entities plans.”

Upon receiving the working group’s report this week, Mahuta said Cabinet would carefully consider the recommendations before finalising reform plans and introducing legislation.

“We know it is important to get this reform right for every New Zealander.

“We are committed to ensuring local councils continue to have a vital three waters role by representing the interests of their communities at the highest level of each new water services entity alongside mana whenua, and by owning these entities on behalf of their communities.

“The process going forward is designed to make sure the wealth of three waters expertise and local knowledge built up by local government transfers over to the new entities and that these new water services providers are accountable and responsive to local communities.

“I look forward to providing an update on next steps once I have had the opportunity to consider the recommendations in this report with my Cabinet colleagues.” — NZLDR

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