Water reform ‘hospital pass’

Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult. Photo: supplied
Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult. Photo: supplied
The Government’s proposal to reform how water is managed in New Zealand has been described as a ‘‘hospital pass’’ by Queenstown’s mayor.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council held an extraordinary meeting yesterday to discuss its response to the Government’s reform, due on Friday.

Mayor Jim Boult described the Government’s Three Waters reform as a ‘‘hospital pass’’, while deputy mayor Calum Macleod questioned whether the council would meeting its legal requirements if it made a decision on the matter.

The draft response said the council had found several issues with the Government’s data dashboard and contended the potential household cost saving was likely to be ‘‘significantly’’ lower than claimed.

The model also did not account for high visitor numbers and development contributions, both of which were ‘‘highly relevant’’ to understanding the Three Waters provision and investment across the district.

‘‘Questions remain as to whether benefits are realistic or inflated.

‘‘Better-off and worse-off funding has been built upon resident population-based modelling, but locations with high visitor numbers are required to provide Three Waters services for peak-day populations.

‘‘As such, the funding is insufficient to meet QLDC’s needs,’’ the response said.

At the start of the meeting, Mr Boult said the matter was, in his view, ‘‘the biggest single issue to come to local authorities since the review of local authorities, back in 1989’’.

‘‘Clearly, feedback from councils around the country suggests this proposal is not sitting comfortably ... in general, I am left with the impression ... Government is sending us a hospital pass with this.’’

Cr Niamh Shaw said she had received ‘‘numerous’’ emails asking the council to opt out.

She believed the council’s position statement was quite clear and reiterated she was unhappy about the lack of information the council had been given, and that data modelling was based on inaccurate figures.

Cr Calum Macleod said the council could not legally make a decision on the reforms at this point, referring to a section of the council’s response, which said, to date there had been insufficient information and time available for the council to meaningfully engage with the community on the implications of the reform, required for the council to meet its ‘‘moral and legal requirements’’.

The councillors were unanimous in their support of the draft response, amended to make clearer the council’s position.

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