Hurunui District Council may seek legal advice over three waters reform

Marie Black Photo: Supplied
Marie Black Photo: Supplied
Hurunui Mayor Marie Black says the district council may seek legal advice in response to three waters information requests from the Government.

Although she admits the move could be redundant as the rollout of the contentious reform programme gathers momentum.

Doubts over how the council will resource the handover of three waters management, alongside what legal footing it has, were matters mulled over at last week’s Hurunui District Council operations committee meeting.

The Three Waters National Transition Unit, set up by the Department of Internal Affairs, has been ramping up resources and have called on Hurunui council staff to assemble data as part of the hand over.

Black says the council may seek legal advice, like other councils, but contemplated how effective the move would be.

“The dilemma we have as a council is do we seek that legal advice and then at the end of the day we still supply the information through a process.

“Perhaps if there is some support funding for us ...I guess that’s the dilemma about getting the legal advice is what are we going to do with that advice.

“There is a responsibility for a desirable out come.”

The latest report received by the committee says the workload, split across eight different workstreams, would put strain on council staff.

“[The NTU] are picking up speed,” council chief operations officer Dan Harris says.

Councillor and committee chair Fiona Harris asked whether it had a legal obligation to play ball.

“Just because someone says jump doesn’t mean we have to do it lightly,” she says.

Council chief executive Hamish Dobbie says they will be charging for the work required in facilitating data, but it was only part of the issue.

“It’s not actually the cost, it’s having the bodies,” Dobbie says.

Harris suggested there were doubts over its legal obligations to meet the unit’s demands due to the fact it had not indicated it was willing to pay for council’s services.

“There’s no mechanism to gather those funds,” he says.

“That’s why I say no because they’re not meeting their obligation.”

Further questions were asked at the meeting as to whether there was any indication of three waters staff being targeted for recruitment.

“Is there any sign of not just requesting the information but looking at our people with the information.”

Harris says it was a factor throughout the country.

“They’re jumping pretty quickly from main councils,” he says.

“I guess standby is my message there.”

-By Adam Burns
Local democracy reporter

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