Time to have your say on three waters reform

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Published: 08 Sep 2021

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Everyone in Timaru District is being asked to have their say about the proposed shake up in how your water services are provided.

The proposal to remove drinking water, waste water and stormwater from direct council control, and group it into a single South Island-wide organisation, is currently out for feedback to local government.

A new water reform hub, which has information on regarding the reforms as well as a feedback form, has been launched on the Timaru District Council website at timaru.govt.nz/3waters

Mayor Nigel Bowen said that he and all the elected members were yet to be convinced that the structure would deliver better outcomes for the district, but it was important to hear from the community on the subject.

“We’re talking about the control of assets that the community has built up over more than a hundred years, and it’s important that we hear from the community as part of our decision making,’ he said.

“This is one of the biggest changes in local government since amalgamation and it’s important that these important decisions aren’t rushed through without proper public input.

“Some parts of the proposal, like the stronger regulation, we strongly agree with. However, there are areas such as the representation model we feel could risk leaving Timaru an infrastructure backwater with no direct local voice at the table.”

Under the government’s proposed model Timaru District Council, alongside more than 20 other councils would vie for one of six seats on a 12 seat regional representation group. This group would then nominate a separate group which would then select the board of directors for the new water company.

(TDC Visualisation of current vs proposed representation model)

“The major city councils such as Christchurch and Dunedin, who represent the biggest number of people would understandably want a guaranteed say, and I’m concerned that smaller councils such as ours could go for years never having anyone representing them,” said Bowen.

“I and our Councillors are concerned that with this reduction in local focus, the new water entities will be more responsive to water industry regulator Taumata Arowai and directives from central government to the detriment of any local representation.

“As a council, we can take a more holistic and community-interested look at the needs of the community and make long term investments to help drive growth in our district.

“I’m concerned that a water entity under significant government pressure to deliver the huge capital and operational savings claimed, while providing water to an agreed standard, and with very little local oversight, will not be interested in making this kind of investment.

“With the whole South Island competing for investment, it’s likely that those with the loudest voices get the most funding.”

Under the current timeline, Councils have until the end of September to provide feedback to the government about the proposals. Councils haven’t received any detail about when and how we should consult with our communities about this significant issue, nor whether the government will consult outside of the formal select committee procedure.

The timeline and process for councils deciding whether to opt in or out of the reforms has not been confirmed.

Last updated: 08 Sep 2021