Councils get together on water plans

Gary Kircher. Photo: ODT files
Gary Kircher. Photo: ODT files
A pair of South Island mayors say a collaborative approach to water concerns will benefit their districts in the long run, amid a government review into water affordability and capability issues facing district councils.

Five Central South Island district councils - Waitaki, Waimate, Timaru, Mackenzie and Ashburton — have applied for funding to investigate changes to water services as part of the Government’s Three Waters Review.

The Central South Water Collaboration, of which the councils are a part, is investigating whether a collaborative approach to three waters services — drinking water collection treatment and delivery; sewage transport, treatment and disposal; and stormwater management - could benefit their councils and communities.

The Government set up a Three Waters Review team alongside an inquiry into the drinking water contamination incident in Havelock North last year, and has since been considering solutions to the wider affordability and capability challenges facing local councils. It has indicated there is likely to be significant change to how services are provided.

The collaboration has applied for $120,000 from a government fund set aside to help investigate regional, multi-regional or sub-regional service delivery models, and will split another $120,000 cost of the work on a population basis.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the issue was a "real focus" for the Government, but he was not convinced the review needed to encompass every territorial authority.

"Overall it’s need, yes, but for every council, perhaps not quite as much. But, it is what it is."

However, he said there was an advantage to collaboration.

"One of the advantages to joining together is certainly the ability to more easily attract the skills that we need and to have staff working across boundaries.

Craig Rowley. Photo: ODT files
Craig Rowley. Photo: ODT files
"There’s going to be much more compliance work that needs to be done and that’s going to have a real flow-on effect. We know we are already short-staffed in that particular area and we know we are, unfortunately, going to need a few more staff to do all the work that’s currently not being done and the extra work that will need to be done."

He said Waitaki’s water supplies were coping well, but acknowledged the Ohau Village supply and some Corriedale schemes needed work to "get them up to speed".

Waimate Mayor Craig Rowley said the review was necessary and it was important the five councils had the same mindset.

"If we can work together to come up with some agreed solutions that are suitable for more than one council, that’s going to save us engineering and design fees.

"The big thing is they [the government] first need to identify the issues and just make sure they’ve got the issues right before they come up with solutions."

He said while the district’s supplies were in good shape, some rural schemes needed upgrade work.

However, he was hesitant to spend money on them until the review was completed.

"We don’t want to spend a whole heap of money on something that’s gold plated if we don’t need it, obviously."


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