Sunday, May 19, 2024

Cabinet agrees to next steps in local water plan

Cabinet has agreed on key steps to implement Local Water Done Well, the Government’s plan for financially sustainable locally delivered water infrastructure and services, Local Government Minister, Simeon Brown, announced today.

“Councils and voters resoundingly rejected Labour’s expensive and bureaucratic Three Waters regime, and earlier this year the Coalition Government repealed their policies,” said Minister Brown.

“Today, we are announcing the next steps on how we will be implementing Local Water Done Well. This clear plan will deliver better, financially sustainable, and affordable water services while retaining local control of water assets. 

“Our plan recognises the importance of local decision making and flexibility for communities and councils to determine how their water services will be delivered. The Government expects councils will work together to address financial sustainability and affordability challenges.”

The Minister said Cabinet has agreed to a streamlined decision-making process for the establishment of council-controlled organisations (CCOs) for water services as part of Local Water Done Well.

“The Government’s transitional legislation is expected to be passed by mid-2024 and will make it easier for early movers to shift the delivery of water services into CCOs as a first step, setting the foundations for more financially sustainable and transparent services.”

“Transitional provisions will also include the requirement for councils to prepare Water Services Delivery Plans within 12 months to demonstrate their commitment to deliver water services that are financially sustainable, meet regulatory standards for water infrastructure quality, and unlock housing growth. This will require the ring-fencing of funding so that sufficient revenues from water services are used to maintain those assets.

“Information supplied by councils in these Plans will assist in the establishment of economic regulation for water services by late 2025, ensuring fair prices and service quality for consumers, and appropriate investment in infrastructure,” Mr Brown says. 

He said the Government will provide further details in mid-2024 on the broader range of structural and financing tools which will be available to councils to ensure they can make the required investment in water services infrastructure.

This legislation will be passed by the middle of 2025.

The Government is currently working with Auckland Council as it develops options to the financial sustainability of Watercare’s investment programme. 

“Cabinet has agreed a path which would enable any required legislative changes for a financially sustainable model for Watercare to be included in the Transitional Provisions Bill,” said Mr Brown.

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