Claim water scheme governance bid illegal

Fears over future powers of consumer-elected committees to manage rural water schemes in the Waitaki district prompted a challenge that changes the Waitaki District Council wanted to make were illegal.

A representative of the water schemes, Bill Malcolm, told the council this week a legal opinion in 2008 said removing governance, which sets the powers of the water committees, from a bylaw was not legal.

The council was proposing to start a process to revoke the 2001 Rural Water Supply Bylaw and replace it with a new bylaw covering technical issues, including theft of water. The governance of the schemes through the water scheme committees would be covered in a separate policy, rather than being part of the bylaw.

Yesterday, the council changed course and decided to ask chief executive Michael Ross to start a review of the bylaw and confirmed its aim to review water supply management and governance after the adoption of its 2012-22 long-term plan next year.

The council has 21 water schemes, most governed by committees elected by consumers. The exceptions are larger schemes, such as Oamaru's water supply.

The committees are responsible for operating, maintaining and developing the schemes and propose the rates consumers pay.

Mr Malcolm said the 2008 legal opinion said the governance of the schemes could not be separated from the bylaw. The council's proposal to use a policy instead of the bylaw to set the powers and duties of committees went against the legal opinion.

A policy could be changed at any time, but any alterations to a bylaw required a special consultative process.

The existing 2001 bylaw should not be revoked until a new draft bylaw had been prepared and gone out for public consultation.

A joint committee of water scheme representatives and the council had prepared a draft bylaw in 2008, he said.



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