Councillors reject 'flawed' water reforms: 'The changes don’t stack up for us'

Christchurch wastewater. Photo: Supplied
Christchurch wastewater. Photo: Supplied
Christchurch city councillors have today rejected the proposed three waters reform - and will now officially ask the Government to pause the "flawed" plan.

The planned reform, which councillors say doesn’t stack up for the city, would see drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure transferred from councils around New Zealand to four new independent entities. The South Island, which has 21 local authorities, would come under one entity.

Under the planned reform, the city council will be paid about $122.4 million to transfer $6.9 billion in water-related assets - and $1.1 billion of debt - to the new authority.

At a meeting on Monday, councillors considered the feedback it will provide to Government on the proposed reform. They unanimously agreed to include a call for the Government to pause the reform to give all parties time to understand the future implications.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel has consistently opposed the plan as it stands. The council cannot opt-out yet, but has recommended it do so.

"The case has been made for increased investment across the country but the proposed changes to the delivery model are flawed and don’t stack up for us," Dalziel said.

"The Government has taken a one-size fits all approach to the reform process and is promoting a model that would deprive our communities of having any say in the delivery of three water services.

Lianne Dalziel. Photo: File image
Lianne Dalziel. Photo: File image
"We don’t believe this is the right approach.

"We want to work with the Government to explore other options that would deliver better outcomes for individual councils whilst still addressing the need to ensure that everyone in New Zealand has access to safe drinking water.

"It is very important to us and to the communities that we represent that Christchurch can get, and maintain, an exemption from the requirement for public drinking water supplies to be chlorinated.

"Any model that prevents this from happening is completely unacceptable to us. We have invested heavily in the infrastructure and we will not settle for a delivery model that shuts us out of the decision-making," Dalziel says.

Councillor Sam MacDonald said advice from staff shows the model is fundamentally flawed.

"That's not to say we're opposed to any form of change," he said.

"What's really alarming with this is there has been millions of dollars spent on consultants and what have we really got?

"We've basically shown Government doesn't understand how local councils operate," he said.

In its feedback to the Government, the council will write to Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta to ask for a pause in the Government’s reform agenda.

The Canterbury Mayoral Forum, of which Dalziel is a member, also asked for a pause in the process.

"These decisions are once-in-a-generation decisions for councils and we feel very strongly that they should not be rushed," Dalziel said.

"We are also making it clear that we don’t have any confidence that the Government has a sound understanding of stormwater service provision and the place of urban waterways.

"There is almost no information or analysis regarding stormwater, waterways and floodplain management in the proposals."

The council sought feedback from residents via a survey earlier this month that received 5125 responses.

A survey of almost 4000 Waimakariri residents showed 95 per cent were against the proposal. Public consultation in the Selwyn district will go ahead in November.

Dalziel said the Government now needs to thoroughly investigate other delivery and funding options. 

"Councils also need to be given time to understand how the three waters reform aligns with the Future for Local Government Review and the reforms that are also happening in resource management and climate adaptation.

“We are not questioning that change needs to occur. However, we need to make sure that we are making the right changes for the right reasons and that we are protecting the interests of our residents."

-Star News and NZ Herald



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