The Dunedin City Council voted eight votes to seven at a full meeting of the council yesterday afternoon to join advocacy group Communities 4 Local Democracy.
The group is a coalition of 28 local authorities formed to provide a unified campaign opposing the Government’s plan to push through compulsory Three Waters reforms.
Queenstown Lakes District Council is a member of the group.
The motion to join was brought by Cr Andrew Whiley, who said joining the group would allow Dunedin to collaborate with other councils and identify alternative solutions to the Government’s proposals.
It would cost the council $20,000 to join the group, funds which were to come from the council’s existing Three Waters budget.
Cr Mike Lord spoke against the proposal and said he did not agree with the "style and delivery" of the group.
He was concerned by the voting structure of the group which gives each member council a single vote around the table regardless of its size.
Giving councils voting rights proportional to their number of ratepayers would be fairer.
"I’m just not interested myself in joining up where you could get two tin-pot councils that could absolutely outvote us and we’d be screwed."
Cr Jim O’Malley was in favour of the move and said the coalition was primarily comprised of smaller councils to begin with because their size meant they could make decisions faster.
"Christchurch has joined, when we join then Wellington will join.
"If we don’t join we’re guaranteed that Wellington and Auckland won’t join.
"The only way to get this coalition is to get it one council at a time."
He castigated some of his fellow councillors for merely saying they were disappointed with the Government making the proposed changes mandatory.
"Disappointed, is that the best you can be?
"You know, frankly, I can’t get over how people basically work their way out not to have to confront the Government on this really bad economic policy."
Mayor Aaron Hawkins said the decision before them was not about the council’s opinions on the roll out of the Three Waters reform, but rather about whether to help fund the campaign of a group of smaller councils "including potentially their futile legal case against the crown".
"As a larger centre, we have the additional privilege of paying extra for that and still only have one vote around the table, and I would put dollars to doughnuts that this would be the beginning of the funding that is required to mount a campaign on the scale of what is being proposed by this group."
Votes for the motion: Crs Barker, Elder, Hall, Houlahan, O’Malley, Radich, Vandervis, Whiley.
Against: Crs Benson-Pope, Garey, Laufiso, Lord, Staynes, Walker, Mr Hawkins.