Fears public may have little say over water

Stormwater outlet Andersons Bay Inlet. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
PHOTO: ODT FILES
The public could be denied a proper say about extensive water reforms, Dunedin elected members fear.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins urged the Government to allow councils to have sufficient time to involve their communities in one of the biggest reforms affecting local government in about 30 years.

People were concerned, agitated and confused about what the Government was proposing for water, wastewater and stormwater and taking a shortcut in not allowing them to be adequately involved in council decisions would be a poor outcome, he said.

The sweeping proposed reforms include taking control of water assets away from councils and having four regional water entities manage them instead.

Proposed centralisation has raised fears about loss of local knowledge and expertise, uncertainty about how systems would work and scepticism relating to government information and claims about cost savings.

The Government has argued that a new approach is needed amid mounting costs to deal with ageing infrastructure and to get it up to modern standards.

Councils have been given two months to audit government information and they are expected to be allowed to choose whether they will opt in or out of the programme by the end of the year.

Mr Hawkins said responses from local government would be aggregated and little time might be left for councils to decide whether to opt out.

Everyone should be concerned about the paucity of time that might be left for community feedback, he said.

Cr Carmen Houlahan said the Government’s reform process had appeared rushed.

Many questions still needed to be answered and she believed the process had been handled ‘‘very, very poorly’’.

Cr Jim O’Malley likened the reforms to a car driving along a winding road too fast.

He was worried election dates were determining timeframes and decisions with far-reaching implications might be compromised.

He pointed to a series of indicators that seemed to show the Dunedin council’s asset management had improved in recent years.

They included the average duration of unplanned water main shutdowns and the number of unplanned shutdowns and sewer blockages.

grant.miller@odt.co.nz

Comments

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It is a path to nationalisation or corporatization of the water reticulation systems without the owners, the ratepayers, having a say. Water - the most important requirement of life to be taken out of the hands and say of local communities and iwi. The proposed savings are words only - there is no logical reason for savings to be greater than present systems of governance. Indeed worse is to be expected, as more layers of bureaucracy, less reporting to ratepayers. Look at power - the one utility that could benefit from nationalisation as power gets distrubuted across the nation from dams and transgrid - look at how costs have gone and projected. Look at the loss and now the costs in communities that once had their own power provisioning, ask Central Otago people about Aurora and how we are looked after and to pay. We don't need bribes and there is a threat too remember - to know this 3 ways water, is a dangerously bad option.

I agree, the time frame around the water resource management proposals seem to be rushed. I suspect that the 3 year election cycle is the principal reason which is a good argument to extending that, but thats another argument. To avoid the stigma of compulsory acquisition the Govt should allow more time.
With regard to your comments on the electricity supply problems and your suggestion that the whole thing should be nationalised., I am perplexed. Where were you in the late 1990's when the Bolger National Govt dismantled the totally disfunctional nationalised power supply and split it up into a number of SOE's that John Key later fully privatised. The resulting mish mash has never delivered the promised commercial competitive price regime that Bolger promised and quite frankly the who process was totally mismanaged. Is re-nationalising the answer, probably not, but it does reinforce the need to take sufficient time to ensure whatever change happens is fully considered.

I fully support the concerns expressed by the Council on this matter. Three Waters is an appalling concept, in terms of loss of significant control of important local decision making and a raid on our balance sheet. Secondly the thought of central government control, especially in view of the propaganda advertising exercise we are subjected to, which is patently untrue, is very worrying. The Minister should seriously reconsider the line being taken by the government.

The DCC has consistently failed in the provision of safe drinking water and the good ,management of sewage treatment and stormwater. Hawkins is correct about people being concerned. However, the concern is due to the incompetence of DCC in delivering an acceptable service. Hawkins would have us believe that inadequate consultation would result in a poor outcome. This begs the question as to why the consultation between the DCC and the community over the current plans etc to date has not resulted in competent management of services? DCC are light weights both politically and technically and are not up to the job of managing water reforms. If we want nothing to happen let the DCC get involved with lots of “conversations”and consultation, workshops and meetings $$$$$$$$! Otherwise let the expert’s under Central Government control get the job done.

This government has proved to lack the ability to deliver on most things. Expecting them to sort out water issues throughout the country is beyond belief. Most of the ministers couldn't identify a dripping tap let alone fix it.

Make no mistake, this is no less than an asset grab by the government as part of its plan to give assets away as part of its He Puapua response. If the govt seriously wanted to upgrade the water assets, rather than trying to bribe local governments to give the assets up, they could provide adequate funding to councils to run them properly. The government have no mandate for any of this and successfully hid the He Puapua report from its partners before the election. Interesting that the proposed boundaries are along iwi lines!

You warn us to make no mistakes and then proceed to fill your comment with several.
Where do you get the idea that the govt has a plan to asset grab? What is the source of this exclusive inside knowledge.
He puapua is not a govt policy, it's the name of a report produced by a govt Dept. The national party lie that it is govt policy has already been settled by Parliament.
I'm sure Iwi will be interested to learn that you have redrawn their boundary lines. I must have missed that fabrication in the latest ACT party propaganda sheet.
Take your own advice and make no mistake.

This goverment has policies it doesn't share. He Papua is government policy by stealth. National needs to be far more aggressive in opposing it. Iwi boundaries are in irrelevant diversion, in my view

100% correct. The government will own the depreciating assets in the ground and 50% of the water, with iwi having the balance. This is race-based policy, which is called racist in any other context. Time to get rid of Hawkins and this Government. Both are useless.

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