Gore votes to join water services reform

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The Gore district coffers will be $1.1million better off after councillors voted to be part of a proposed Government reform of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services.

In July, the Government announced an initial funding package of $761million to provide a post-Covid boost to maintain and improve water network infrastructure, and support a three-year programme of reform of local government water delivery services.

Initial funding will be made available to councils that agree to participate in the initial stage of the reform programme, through a memorandum of understanding.

At the Gore District Council meeting on Tuesday night, chief executive Steve Parry presented a report outlining the Government’s proposal.

Mr Parry said it was possible in the future local government would not be responsible for providing the 3 Waters services.

"At this stage the preferred outcome is a public company servicing multiple regions with a skill-based board of directors," Mr Parry said.

There was no obligation involved in signing the memorandum "apart from to act in good faith and keep an open mind".

There could be more funding available through a provincial pool.

When the New Zealand drinking water standards were revised in 2008 the water produced at Gore’s water treatment stations did not meet the standard.

Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks said many councils faced the problem of not being able to provide good-quality water.

"The way we do it is obviously broken because we’re not there.

"Most of that comes down to cost.

"Potentially, having that money will give us the ability to do what we have to."

Cr Cliff Bolger said he was pleased the Government was putting money into helping improve the quality of drinking water.

"Unfortunately, it’s going to come with some restrictions and we may lose a wee bit of control."

Cr Neville Phillips was the only councillor to vote against the council signing the memorandum.

Cr Phillips said he believed the council should err on the side of caution because as a result of the reforms ratepayers could end up having to pay for the water they used.

Cr Doug Grant said he, too, was wary of the scheme but the memorandum clearly stated public ownership of water service delivery infrastructure would continue.

SANDY EGGLESTON

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