3 Waters: Mayor lauds council over approach to submission

Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Outgoing Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult praised councillors and council staff over their approach to the council’s submission on the Three Waters reforms, saying they had reached a "very firm position ... while remaining in the bounds of civility".

At an extraordinary full council meeting yesterday, councillors voted unanimously to approve a submission to the Department of Internal Affairs on the proposed reforms.

The council’s submission outlined some "significant concerns" about the nature and programme of reform, and stated it continued to oppose "Government mandating the proposed entity-based model for water services delivery".

Other concerns included the way the Bill was being advanced through Parliament; the present lack of detail; a proposed shareholding model which did not account for high visitor numbers and rapid growth in the Queenstown Lakes district; and a "general lack of community understanding" around the reforms.

The council’s submission said there was also a lack of assurance in the current wording of the reforms the community and territorial shareholder voice would be heard, and it had concerns about the lack of representation and diversity of regional representative groups, the constitutions of the water services entities and future privatisation regarding joint arrangements by water service entities.

Following yesterday’s vote, Mr Boult told councillors their submission communicated the council’s stance clearly, "but we’ve avoided some of the hysteria that has been occurring elsewhere on this matter".

"I think we’ve reached our position in a civil and respectful manner ... I think we should take a pat on the back for that, councillors. Well done.

"I have been appalled at some of the personal attacks that have been delivered to both central and local government members over this issue."

Cr Craig Ferguson said it was a "very robust submission" and "no-one likes the perceived idea of forced handover of infrastructure or assets".

Cr Quentin Smith said there were a couple of "major flaws" in the proposed reforms, one being around assumptions regarding the perceived "benefit" of the reforms which, he believed, the council had proven were incorrect.

"Secondly, this was clearly, from the beginning, projected as an opt-in scheme, and our community should have a say in what happens in this space, and that opportunity has been removed."

However, there remained an "infrastructure funding problem" in the future for the district, not unique to Three Waters, he said.