Water users vote for private ownership

The Otama rural water scheme can now push on with development after winning support for ownership to move into private hands.

In a statement yesterday, the Gore District Council said consumers had voted in favour of moving ownership of the scheme away from the council.

The preliminary result had 225 votes in favour of transferring ownership of the scheme to Otama Rural Water Ltd; there were 23 votes against.

Users of the scheme will eventually be the new shareholders of Otama Rural Water Ltd.

The voter turnout was 53.22%. The final result is due to be released in the coming days.

The referendum follows a local member’s Bill, passed by Parliament in 2019, allowing ownership of the scheme to be transferred to a new company with directors appointed by the scheme’s users.

The scheme, with 239km of pipeline, supplies water to 253 connections on 210 farms in the Gore district.

The water comes from a bore next to the Mataura River, at the site of the Pyramid Bridge.

Two schools and a marae also use the water.

Scheme committee chairman Tom Affleck said he was happy with the result and the support received for the new enterprise.

The new operators would look to appoint Downer as the manager of the scheme, he said.

Mr Affleck said the Gore District Council never put any finance into the scheme.

Despite the proposed central government Three Waters reforms, the new operators were looking to improve the scheme and wanting to push ahead, he said.

The aim was to improve the pipe from the pumphouse to the reservoir.

Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks said consumers had clearly shown their preference, and the council would now start the process of transferring ownership to the new entity.

Chief executive Stephen Parry said the council would work with the Otama scheme committee over the coming months to ensure a smooth transfer of ownership at the end of June next year.

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