13 June 2024

Council sends blunt message to withdraw proposed water reform bill

Hamilton City Council has demanded Government should withdraw proposed reform legislation for its water reform programme and find a more acceptable solution.

Calling the Government’s reform timeline as ‘unrealistic’, the Council has conveyed that governance arrangements risk undoing years of strategic planning, and ratepayers could be left carrying the cost of unfunded overhead in the wake of the reform.

Those were the blunt messages delivered by Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate and Councillor Angela O’Leary (Infrastructure Operations Committee Chair) yesterday, 5 September in support of Council’s formal submission to the Parliamentary Finance and Expenditure Select Committee.

Council’s formal view, informed by the views of more than 1200 submissions from the community earlier this year, is strongly opposed to Government’s four-entity water reform model. Its preference is for a smaller regional council-controlled organisation (CCO) model based on existing strategic relationships between Waikato and Bay of Plenty councils.

“We are a growing city, the hub of the Waikato economy, and we have built regional strategic partnerships to make sure we grow in the right way and in the right places.

“This long-term strategic planning could be undone through the structures put forward by Government. It makes no sense that the largest growth council, asset owner and population base in the proposed water services entity does not have guaranteed representation at a governance level,” Mayor Southgate said.

O’Leary told the select committee the reform could halt Council’s success in delivering integrated planning to get the best community outcomes across waters, transport, and growth.

“Government has asked us to do better with climate change and our Council has just adopted a bold and robust climate change strategy, yet this reform will hamper some of those goals because our water services will be split apart from our strategic planning,” O’Leary said.

The select committee is expected to report back to Parliament in November.

The Bill enables transferring management of drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater from 67 councils nationwide to four new Water Service Entities from 1 July 2024.

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Related Stories:

https://www.newsviews.co.nz/three-waters-reforms-council-seeks-community-feedback-as-consultation-opens/ https://www.newsviews.co.nz/hamilton-council-needs-your-support-to-shape-three-waters-reforms/

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