You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
National reform of water services could call into question what councils are for, Dunedin city councillors have warned.
Several councillors expressed deep reservations yesterday about the Government’s planned programme, which is touted as a drive to make drinking water safer but which also imposes more responsibilities on councils while likely stripping them of assets.
Cr David Benson-Pope said residents were concerned they could face set water charges or metering as a result.
Similar developments overseas had "failed dismally to deliver what politicians promised", he said.
Cr Carmen Houlahan said residents had approached her about possible water metering.
That was one area of uncertainty among many that bothered councillors at yesterday’s council meeting.
Concerns were also aired about the speed of reform and disruption to the sector.
The Dunedin City Council approved a joint submission made with seven other Otago and Southland councils on the Government’s Water Services Bill yesterday.
The submission highlights confusion about roles and responsibilities and says the cost burden placed on councils would be substantial.
Some city councillors — including deputy mayor Christine Garey — indicated support for the broader aims of the Government’s reforms.
Cr Jim O’Malley urged the Government to avoid rushing its programme and other councillors were worried about wider implications.
Cr Chris Staynes said centralisation could leave some councils with little to do.
That could lead to rationalisation of local government, he said.
Cr Lee Vandervis said central government had pushed councils away from focusing on infrastructure and now wanted to take from them the delivery of basic services.
Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said local government was facing its most disruptive period since the 1989 reorganisation of the sector.
As well as being affected by the Government’s pursuit of water reforms, councils would need to adjust to the planned repeal of the Resource Management Act and the influence of the Climate Change Commission.
Cr Marie Laufiso was worried about effects on council staff who might need to seek new jobs. She was anxious reform could lead to "mucking around with people’s lives".
Cr O’Malley and Cr Jules Radich were uneasy about the Government using money for some projects as a way to leverage support for the Government’s approach.
Cr Sophie Barker said Dunedin had worked hard as a major city to fulfil its responsibilities as a supplier of water and other services. Some other councils had not been as devoted to meeting compliance obligations.
Cr Mike Lord said some councils would be "over the moon" about the Government stepping in.
Cr O’Malley said parts of the proposed reforms, such as alienation of assets, seemed a significant threat.