Officials to get rural water scheme ‘insight’

Top Three Waters reforms officials are visiting Clutha today to learn about the district’s rural water schemes and talk to local stakeholders.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said the visit of Department of Internal Affairs partnerships director Allan Prangnell and new water regulator Taumata Arowai chief executive Bill Bayfield presented a unique opportunity to talk to officials at the heart of the reform process.

Following an extensive tour of the district’s water schemes by car and helicopter, Mr Prangnell and Mr Bayfield will take part in an information evening at the Cross Recreation Centre in Balclutha at 7pm.

Due to Covid-19 Alert Level 2 restrictions, tonight’s event was by invitation only, Mr Cadogan said.

However, all stakeholder groups would be represented, allowing for a ‘‘comprehensive’’ overview and exchange of information.

‘‘If we wanted to get two people more informed or in the middle of this [to visit], we couldn’t do better than these.

‘‘They’re coming to gain insight into our rural water schemes as they’re one of the main lines of contention down here, that differentiates us from the rest of New Zealand.’’

Mr Cadogan said Clutha’s water schemes were among the largest, most complex and most broadly utilised in the country.

About a third (6000) of Clutha’s residents relied on rural water schemes for their fresh water.

The schemes — collectively the third-longest network nationally — simultaneously supplied stock water and both rural and urban residents in some parts of the district, such as Kaitangata.

That meant questions of quality, ownership, maintenance and future upgrades were particularly complex.

‘‘Would we exclude schemes where 90% of the water is going to sheep, with only a few households using it, and treating their own water at their property, for example?’’

There were a host of questions of this sort that need careful consideration before anything went out for public consultation, he said.

Mr Cadogan said the council had received criticism from some parts of the community for not yet adopting a clear stance on the reforms.

However, he said it was too early to draw conclusions on the reforms.

‘‘We haven’t gone for something like a referendum yet because it is out of sequence with where the process is at.’’

Mr Cadogan said thanks to today’s event, and careful preparation by councillors for upcoming public consultation, Clutha would be among the best placed districts to make an informed decision on the reforms.

‘‘I couldn’t ask for us to be better prepared for what lies ahead, especially after this opportunity today.’’


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