Three Waters Reform - Council united over concerns

Image of glass of water

The Government has proposed changes to the way drinking water, waste water and storm water are delivered in our communities.

With challenges ahead for the three waters services, Council have been asked for feedback on the government’s preferred model. There are major legislation changes in the pipeline that will significantly increase the cost of delivering three waters for Councils - the government proposal aims to reduce the burden of these costs by taking the responsibility away from local government, and creating four regional entities who would be responsible for delivering drinking water, wastewater and storm water services instead.

Government has indicated they will ask Councils to either opt in or opt out of the reform in December this year, but before then Councils have been asked for feedback on the proposed model. After a series of workshops where the three waters proposal was discussed in detail, Council has reached a united view on what the key issues are for our district and these have been shared with government.

Governance and ownership structure

One of Council’s key concerns is the proposed governance model that would see a three tiered structure established and give us very little influence over the entity. We do not have confidence our concerns will be heard as we work to get the best outcomes for our district.

The proposed ownership model would mean we still technically own the water assets but without the ability to influence we would have no say over their management.

Unrealistic goals and timeframes

Even more fundamental is whether the country has the capacity to undertake the work outlined in the government’s proposal. There is a lot to be achieved in a short timeframe and we are not confident anyone can meet government expectations.

The three waters process is also happening at the same time as a number of other reforms and we believe it is unreasonable for Government to expect Councils to fully consider the implications of these reforms all at once.

Local opportunities

Over the years, Council has taken advantage of commercial opportunities to anchor large industries in the district, such as Ingham or Silver Fern Farms. We have serious doubts that a large regional entity would help to establish major business opportunities in our district.

Where to next?

After 1 October it will be up to Government to assess the feedback from Councils and decide how it will progress. We know there is a lot of community interest in the reform and people want to have their say. However, the process is being led by Government and we will have to wait for further information from Government on what happens next, including how and when they want us to engage with our communities.

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What's to come

  • 22 September - Council formally adopts our submission to government
  • 1 October 2021 - our feedback to Government on the proposal is due
  • October 2021 – Government to consider the feedback and decide how it will progress, including how and when councils will consult with their communities