From the Mayor: Water, My worries

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Published: 21 Jul 2021

You may have spotted the ‘green slime’ ads currently trying to sway public opinion towards the Government’s three waters reform plans.

While we can argue about the appropriateness or even the quality of this advertising - thankfully I don’t recall the last time green slime came out of my taps - it’s a bit of a sideshow to councils across the country considering the more serious decision of opting in or out of the reforms.

Looking at the information we’ve been provided so far I’m still not convinced that this would be positive for our community, and in my opinion there are two pretty significant losses that we would suffer.
- Loss of influence: There’s going to be very little local consumer voice at the table going ahead. From the 22 councils that could make up a South Island water authority there will be six representatives, and they won’t even directly appoint the board.
This group will appoint another group which then appoints the board.
Under this model there will be little to no local influence over decisions such as fluoridation and chlorination, and similar to the bold claims made about savings from the 90s power reforms, once it’s all set up there will be little pressure in the long term to keep prices affordable.
Don’t like what the company is doing to your water or how much it costs? Too bad.
- Loss of investment: Timaru District’s food processing and manufacturing, brewing and drinks industries are built on the availability of high quality water, and I’m determined that this shouldn’t be put at risk by us becoming an infrastructure backwater.
With direct Council control we can make long term investments in growth to help spur economic development.
When you look at it from a multi-regional basis, history has shown us that major investments gravitate towards the cities and provincial New Zealand is likely to lose out.
If there’s a choice of an upgrade happening in Christchurch, Dunedin or Geraldine, I have a real worry the money won’t flow this way.
While Christchurch gets a superb new motorway to shave a few minutes off the commute, we can’t even get a second lane on the lifeline Orari Bridge.
So there’s a lot to think about, but we’re taking our time and doing or own homework so that we don’t sign away something so precious to our community, because once it’s gone it’s gone forever.
We just hope the Government and Minister Mahuta keep their word to allow communities to make this decision themselves.

Last updated: 21 Jul 2021