Fresh bid to have council join lobby group

There are great concerns at the Invercargill City Council about the controversial Three Waters reforms and the deputy mayor will make another push to have the organisation join a lobby group.

The debate on the Government’s plan to merge 67 water organisations now run by councils into four will return to the council next week when elected members debate a motion filed by deputy mayor Nobby Clark.

He will be asking his colleagues to reconsider the council’s position not to be part of the Communities 4 Local Democracy group, which has the purpose of advocating for a different solution for water reform.

Cr Clark said his motion followed the delivery of a petition with 670 signatures.

"I believe this group will be a strong voice to Government and will also position LGNZ [Local Government New Zealand] to return to its advocacy role for next two LG [local government] reforms — the future of LG and the RMA [Resource Management Act 1991].

" ... I believe we should reconsider our position on behalf of your ratepayers," he wrote.

The document had support from him and Crs Ian Pottinger, Allan Arnold, Graham Lewis and Nigel Skelt.

If the council decided to join the group, it would need to commit a $15,000 member fee.

At Tuesday’s meeting, councillors will also discuss the council’s plan for the $23.11 million allocated to it as part of the Three Waters reform programme and its draft submission on the Water Services Entities Bill.

It raised several concerns, including the loss of the ownership of assets, the lack of a direct voice on the regional representation group and a potential increase in the cost of water.

The council estimated the proposed model, with forecast efficiencies of 25%, would result in average household costs of $2235 for an Invercargill-Bluff household, a figure "considerably higher" than the $1850 costs without the reforms.

"Everyone wants to see improved health and environmental standards but the community must be able to afford them," the draft submission says.

A report from council strategy and policy manager Rhiannon Suter outlined the possible projects funding which came with the reforms could be used for, as it was to be used for projects to "improve community wellbeing rather than for Three Waters infrastructure directly".

It was suggested to use $1.92 million to future-proof 194 council units used by older and vulnerable people, $1 million for cycling infrastructure and $1 million for extension and upgrade of the CCTV system in the CBD and selected suburbs and parks.

The council planned to use the entire $5.73 million available in the first tranche for the delivery of Te Unua, the new museum and art gallery, $1.5 million to improve the digital customer experience and $500,000 to complete master planning and feasibility assessment for two community projects — Destination Play and the hydrotherapy pool.

The council sought feedback from Awarua and Waihopai Runaka in relation to the projects and that was expected to be provided at the meeting, the report stated.

 

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