Saturday, May 28, 2022
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Three waters questions

  Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air

Two Canterbury mayors remain concerned their ratepayers won’t benefit from the Three Reforms and instead be left to subsidise other communities.
Ashburton and Selwyn mayors say their ratepayers have carried the burden of funding local three waters infrastructure, but under the reforms may end up funding the work of other councils that have failed to do the same.
Mayor Neil Brown said the latest three waters announcement still leaves more questions than answers.
The main question is still if Ashburton ratepayers will be any better off Brown said.
“The ratepayers using the services, are they going to be any better off under this [reform] – I think not.
“The water will be the same as what it has been but they’ll notice it in their bills they get from three waters.”
“That higher bill will then go to subsidising other communities.”
Selwyn Mayor Sam Broughton was pleased to see the Government had listened to the recommendations but said “the benefit to Selwyn is yet to be proven”.
“What they are trying to do for the country are things we did in Selwyn five or six years ago, so we will end paying for lots of things that will happen in other places to begin with.”
Both mayors said the goal of the reforms is not the issue, it’s the structure in which it is proposed to be achieved that is meeting opposition.
The announcement on Friday from local government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has solidified the governance structure for the proposed reforms by accepting the majority of a working group’s recommendations, including council shareholding and co-governance.
Broughton criticised the “pretty broad stroke” of assigning shares based on population.
“It doesn’t take into account the quality of infrastructure, the number of resource consents you hold, there is so much you can get into.”
What it does do Broughton said, is confirm council ownership.
With some greater clarity provided on the governance structure, both Mayors will be keeping a close eye on the next tranche of work which will determine how the reforms will operate and how the funding model will work.
Brown said from the information so far, the new entities will have a higher borrowing capacity and will double the number of staff and contractors to do the work.
“The numbers don’t appear to stack up.”
Brown still believes the Government needs to give the drinking water regulator – Taumata Arowai – time to settle in and give councils an indication of the scale of work they face, before moving to the next phase.
The announcement on Friday suggests the Government intends to surge forward towards the planned July 2024 handover.