Delay in adopting plans waste of time: mayor

A three-month extension this year for councils to adopt their long-term plans because of anticipated changes to Three Waters has been labelled a waste of time and "a false dawn".

Clutha District Mayor Bryan Cadogan said such flexibility offered by the new government did not come close to sorting out the issues that needed to be dealt with.

Delaying adoption of the council’s long-term plan would create more troubles than it fixed, he said.

"Three Waters is enormous — this is about the potential to inflict financial hardship on a vast percentage of the population", Mr Cadogan said.

"It’s not going to be fixed by delaying and procrastinating for three months.

"That’s an absolute waste of time."

In a letter about water reform to mayors late last year, Local Government Minister Simeon Brown confirmed the government would repeal the previous government’s water services legislation, reversing

the plan to take water activities away from individual councils.

Councils will face big bills in the next decade to upgrade water infrastructure, but the shape of legislation is not expected to be known until next month and councils would normally have been expected to adopt their long-term plans by June 30 this year.

Mr Brown said shifting the statutory deadline to September 30 could be "desirable to smaller councils with fewer resources, or those councils that would prefer to wait until the repeal legislation is enacted before starting consultation".

Gore District Council interim chief executive Stephen Parry said this presented "a bit of a false dawn".

He doubted the extension would enable councils to be "bathed in the sunlight of absolute certainty" in time for decision-making.

Mr Parry also pointed out many communities were facing large rates increases.

If his council were to take full advantage of the extension, the first rates instalment would have to stay the same as the previous year.

The new rates demand would then have to be met in the remaining three instalments, exacerbating the steepness of rates rises already likely to be significant.

The Dunedin City Council has signalled it could adopt its long-term plan in July.

"Once we have ... gained an understanding of where the new legislation is taking us, then we will recalculate our timelines for consultation and then adoption", a council spokeswoman said.

Waitaki District Council chief executive Alex Parmley said the minister intended to allow councils to have unaudited long-term plan consultation documents this time.

"This audit is usually time-consuming but did not add much value to the overall process", Mr Parmley said.

"However, uncertainty remains over water services for every council and this is a big driver of cost and therefore potential rate increases."

The Invercargill City Council still expected to adopt its long-term plan by the end of June.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council was reviewing the situation and expected to know more about next steps later this week.