Councillors make call on Three Waters Reform

Waipā residents will end up subsidising other communities including neighbouring big city Hamilton under the government’s Three Waters Reform proposal, say district councillors.

The News understands councillors, frustrated their communities will lose assets built up over years, are planning their own campaigns to force the government to rethink its controversial water reforms.

They are planning public meetings next week in Te Awamutu and Cambridge.

Lou Brown

The Te Awamutu public meeting will be held at 11am on Monday 4 October at Te Awmautu Sports club. It will be a first in, first served meeting, said organiser Lou Brown.

At the monthly Waipā council meeting on Tuesday, staff presented a draft submission to councillors on the water plans.

Most councillors felt the submission was too tame.

“We have asked for a much stronger and clearer message,” said deputy mayor Liz Stolwyk.

“Our community does not want water reform. We are not happy.”

Kakepuku councillor Susan O’Regan said the whole process had been rushed by the government and was awful.

An “expensive and offensive” advertising campaign had eroded good faith, she said.

“Questionable long time financial benefits for the people of Waipā who are after all the ones we have sworn to represent is something we just can’t ignore.”

Under the Three Waters plan, Waipā’s water assets would combine with 21 other councils from the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and parts of the central North Island and be transferred to a separate water entity.

Assets, including water meters and plants paid for by Waipā ratepayers over decades, would no longer be owned by the communities who had invested in them.

Liz Stolwyk

Liz Stolwyk

Cities like Hamilton, who had not invested in water meters, would need significant investment and it was councils like Waipā that would pay for it, said Stolwyk.

O’Regan agreed cross subsidisation was one of many issues she was concerned about.

“The governance model is troubling and will simply have the effect of creating more layers of unnecessary bureaucracy.

“Alienation from effective control or influence over community assets is a real issue.”

In a media release, the council said it was concerned it was being asked to decide on Three Waters in the absence of important information that would enable it to meet the key requirements for robust decision making.

“These reforms will have significant impacts on the community’s wellbeing, as defined by the Local Government Act 2002, for many generations and the community has a right to be consulted and their views given due consideration,” the original submission states.

Concerns around governance and ownership were also issues that needed answers.

“The transfer of ownership of community assets to the new entities is causing considerable debate from a constitutional and an equity perspective. With that transfer goes accountability and the ability to control the direction and standard of growth in individual communities.”

Waipā mayor Jim Mylchreest said the reforms felt rushed and needed to involve the community.

“We are in position to let the government know that we do not accept the reforms in their current format. We are happy to move forward and have a discussion with other councils and central Government to design a package that is practical and will actually work, and not waste a lot of money,” said Mylchreest.

Once finalised, the submission will be formally presented to Local Government New Zealand and Department of Internal Affairs, signed on behalf the council by the mayor and chief executive Garry Dyet.

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