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Broadly the city council will be paid $122.4 million to transfer $6.9 billion worth of water-related assets – and $1.1 billion of debt – to a new model where the country’s drinking, wastewater and stormwater networks are absorbed into four new entities, including one in the South Island which covers 21 local authorities.
- Mauger criticises council water survey: 'The questions were too soft'
- Thousands respond to water survey
The council sought feedback from residents through a survey that attracted 5125 responses.
Phrasing of the survey was a talking point, with no explicit ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘for’ or ‘against’ option surprising some ratepayers, and councillors.
Phil Mauger started the conversation last week when he said the lack of a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ option was an oversight.
The Star polled other councillors and Mayor Lianne Dalziel for their view on the Government’s vision for the future of a precious asset and whether the survey was effective in terms of accurately gauging public sentiment. None of the councillors contacted endorsed the proposed reforms.
"The entities are going to be horrendously complex money-hungry beasts which will eat up any efficiencies that might be made. Local authorities will not have the right to direct the entity on investment projects or pricing. We will have no voice.”
Was the survey on the mark? "It was more about garnering people's feelings about how we value our water here and how we want it delivered rather than address the ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’ issue.
"I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t go there but this wasn’t meant to be a consultation, it was meant to be a soft engagement to alert people to what’s happening.”
"It would see the larger councils funding the smaller councils’ infrastructure. There’s also some question about the accuracy of the financial modelling that’s been put in front of us.”
Was the survey on the mark? “We’re not in a position for people to be able to give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer at this stage.
"There’s a need for more information to be out there.”
"I can see why the Government would be keen to progress it quickly, but you have to wonder if (fast tracking) is actually leading to information that isn’t as precise as what you’d really need to make a decision as important as this.”
Was the survey on the mark? “It couldn’t have hurt to have included a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ option.
"But I have some sympathy for the view it’s early days and we initially wanted to do more of a holistic survey.”
"It’s incredibly undemocratic.
"I’m also concerned about the efficiencies they’ve modelled.
"You can’t actually dig down into what lay behind that.”
Was the survey on the mark? “We can debate the questions all we like.
"I’m more interested in the section where people can put their own comments.”
"Central government has written into legislation that councils need to always give options, but they haven’t done the same.
"There’s a view from central government that as long as they showed people it would be cheaper if it was centralised that would be what drove people’s opinion.
"That’s clearly not the case.
"They want to know they have control over what happens and people can be held accountable.”
Was the survey on the mark? “There hasn’t been enough information on from the Government for people to make a good ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’ decision, but it’s really clear the Government have completely misread the sentiment about water in Christchurch.”
"If it was a bigger entity across a wider area what guarantee would you have that the money from Christchurch area was put into fixing our broken infrastructure?”
Was the survey on the mark? “The survey was to get a general understanding from the community around the issues.
"When we’ve got more information there will be a formal process to get specific feedback on whether we should ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’."
"The people of Christchurch are not in charge of their own destiny on this and that’s terrifying.”
Was the survey on the mark? “I’m not going to bag the council for testing the waters on public opinion but I don’t think there’s any value in beating about the bush.
"People are pretty clued up about it at this point and I think there would be a lot of value in getting a direct ‘yes’ or ‘no’."
"Most people have clean drinking water.
"It’s not like we’re all drinking sewer water waiting for the Government to save us.
"Water will become a bill like power is.
"There’s a very strong element of predetermination in this, they’re just going to take over water.”
Was the survey on the mark? "It’s a complete waste of time and ratepayers’ money because the number one question not in there was: ‘Are you happy for us to give our assets to central government?’
"There had to be a straight yes or no answer on that.
"To ask questions like: ‘Do you think we should have clean drinking water?’
"That’s like saying to someone: ‘Do you think you should have oxygen?
"What a ridiculous question to ask.
"No one is going to disagree and the government can say: ‘Look, we’ve got major support right across the whole country for this.
"We’ve done surveys and the overwhelming feedback was positive’."
"There’s already a system to collect it, it goes to the Treasury, they can give it to the water authority and then we go from there.
"The other issue is the layer cake of bureaucracy. It’ll be like a trough, let’s be honest.”
Was the survey on the mark? “Asking everybody if New Zealand should be able to have clean drinking water? That’s the same line from the Government.
"I do think having a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ at the end of it would have been really helpful.”
Anne Galloway – “A lot of people, me included, feel very rushed. It’s such a huge thing we’re being asked to consider. There’s a lot of ifs, buts and maybes that haven’t really been answered.”
Was the survey on the mark? “It wasn’t a decision-making survey, it was more about getting feedback from the community. Once we’ve got our response sorted out, that’s the point where we should take it to our community and ask: ‘What do you think?’
Mike Davidson – The council has invested millions of dollars into water infrastructure and we’re headed in the right direction. We’re not perfect, but we’re pretty bloody good at what we’re doing.”
Was the survey on the mark? “It’s a start. We’ll have formal consultation when we have all the information. I’ve had a few emails concerned about the survey. I think that’s because they were expecting it to be the only engagement. They’re happy once they realise this is just the start of the conversation.”
Was the survey on the mark? “In hindsight asking whether to opt or out would have been a good poll to have, but the more important question was ‘what are the major concerns and what do they want to see in the reforms?’
Jimmy Chen – “We’re proud of our water, these assets should be owned by the people of Christchurch. We need a clearer picture, more information. How much does each household have to pay?”
Was the survey on the mark? “This survey wasn’t formal consultation, we need more information and this will happen.’’
Was the survey on the mark? “We’re weren’t in a position to say ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’ but we are committed to consulting with our community on that decision when the times comes.”