Saturday, December 4

The councils of the South Islands are disappointed by the government’s decision to push through the Three Waters reform


The government’s decision to push through the Three Waters reforms is drawing widespread opposition from South Island councils, with some labeling it as an asset forfeiture.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta gives a press conference at the Beehive Theatrette on the Three Waters reform.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta gives a press conference at the Beehive Theatrette on the Three Waters reform.
Photo: Pool Image / Robert Kitchin / Stuff

The entire South Island would come under one of the four new regional entities, which will assume responsibility for the provision of potable water, wastewater and rainwater services from local authorities.

The government said aging infrastructure was literally collapsing in some cities, and it would have been irresponsible to invest more money in a broken system or allow households to face high water costs.

The move has been described as disappointing by the mayors of Christchurch, Waimakariri, Ashburton and Waikari.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins joined the chorus.

“It is disappointing that our community has now been denied the opportunity to participate in this discussion, which is something that we have always been promised from the beginning. That this would be a genuine decision that councils should make in consultation with their communities.” . and that is no longer happening. “

The government said city councils will continue to own the assets, which will only be managed by the new Three Waters entity.

Timaru Mayor Nigel Bowen said that for his district it will result in the confiscation of assets worth more than $ 500 million.

“The reason I use such emotional language is that if it were property in its traditional sense, we could borrow that asset. We would have the benefits of traditional property, but we don’t have those benefits, so your property in name only.” .

He is concerned that the move points to further reorganization of the local government as a whole.

Westland District Mayor Bruce Smith said he believes the real goal of the reforms is to bring the iwi into joint governance of water infrastructure.

He said it is to fulfill New Zealand’s obligations to abide by the UN principles to which it has adhered.

“This is not about Three Waters, otherwise there would have been 1000 other different ways to handle it. Of course the other thing is an ongoing movement to centralize control of all of our lives in Wellington.”

He said he had never encountered such widespread opposition to a proposal, and he is confident that the community will resist.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said the reforms will be unpopular at the local level, but that’s partly because the government has explained them too poorly.

Cadogan said that almost all of the council’s next Long-Term Plan would have focused on upgrades to Three Waters infrastructure to keep up with the new requirements.

He said the financial and planning burden will now fall on the new entity, but the public will continue to pay.

“While that burden may have been relieved of the councils, it will not be relieved of the people in the communities we serve. So even if we have more room to play with people’s pockets, it won’t. There will be another. Bill is underway for publication in mid-2024. And I think it’s absolutely necessary that boards don’t get excited about what they can do now. “

Iwi is expected to have a greater governance role under the Three Waters reform.

Te Maire Tau, chairman of the Ngai Tahu freshwater group, said the reforms certainly did not have universal support, but now they have to make them work.

He said the current state of rivers and wetlands across the country shows that changes need to be made.

“We have had too much land on our tribal reserve subject to poor governance at the local level,” Tau said. “So through our villages, the stormwater from the municipalities goes through our villages and into our food beds, so we have to manage that.”

Tau said the public can also be assured that a partnership with Ngai Tahu ensures that the public asset will never be sold or control will leave the South Island.


www.rnz.co.nz

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