Water work shouldn't wait, councillor says

Stormwater outlet Andersons Bay Inlet. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Stormwater outlet at Andersons Bay Inlet. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
The more work that is done now on Dunedin’s water and wastewater infrastructure, the better, city councillor Jim O’Malley says.

Dunedin’s needs might not be viewed ‘‘as favourably as we would wish’’ once Government-imposed reforms had taken effect and a water entity run from Christchurch was calling the shots, he said.

Jim O'Malley. Photo: ODT files
Jim O'Malley. Photo: ODT files
Assets, debt, revenue and expenditure associated with Three Waters services - drinking water, wastewater and stormwater - are due to be effectively transferred to regional water service entities by the end of June 2024.

Asked if the Government’s intervention created an incentive for the Dunedin City Council to slow spending on infrastructure in the meantime, Cr O’Malley said he did not believe so.

The council has budgeted to spend $561.7 million on Three Waters infrastructure in the next 10 years, including $437.9 million for its renewal.

Work was proceeding as planned, council infrastructure and development general manager Simon Drew said.

The plan was prepared at a time when advancement of the reforms - or which councils would be involved - was not certain, but the Government has since made involvement mandatory.

Mr Drew said details of how assets and debt would be transferred were still to be confirmed by central government.

A thorough due diligence process to assess assets, debt and revenue would be undertaken between now and the transfer date, a Department of Internal Affairs spokesman said.

The Government had been clear it expected councils to continue to maintain and upgrade Three Waters infrastructure in line with their recent long-term plans during the transition, he said.

In Dunedin’s case, the council considers replacing assets such as ageing water and wastewater pipes to be critical.

‘‘In the first three years, our focus will be on fixing the things that need it most,’’ the council said in its public consultation material this year.

‘‘We plan to spend a lot more than we have in the past doing this.’’

Cr O’Malley said the work had been due to increase through the 10 years, as the contracting market needed time to grow.

‘‘The actual fact is that there are not enough contractors able to perform any more work than we are doing now.’’

The Internal Affairs spokesman said initial analysis indicated most councils, including Dunedin’s, would be in a better position after reforms to fund their work.

A $2 billion national package and $761 million of initial stimulus were designed to ensure this.

‘‘This assistance is intended to help ensure that the communities that are the ultimate owners of these assets and services, both before and after the transfer, continue to receive the primary benefit of their ownership - safe, efficient, affordable and sustainable Three Waters services, during the transition period and in the years following.’’

grant.miller@odt.co.nz 

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