Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Christchurch Mayor slams “flawed” Three Waters reforms

Christchurch Mayor, Lianne Dalziel says the Government’s decision to push ahead with the delivery of “flawed” Three Waters reforms is extremely disappointing and robs communities of a voice.

Earlier today, Local Government Minister, Nanaia Mahuta confirmed the Government would proceed with legislation to establish four independent entities to control drinking water, wastewater and stormwater, as outlined earlier this year.

One entity will cover 21 South Island Councils, including Christchurch.

“While Christchurch has acted in good faith throughout the reform process, today’s announcement shows that the Government has been fixated on one model of delivery from the outset,” Mayor Dalziel says.

“The Government gave us and other local authorities just eight weeks to analyse the proposed model for reform – a model that strips local government of one of its core functions.

“The Government then spent just three weeks analysing the feedback provided by 67 Councils. This feels very much like pre-determination and a breach of natural justice.”

She said Council was not opposed to reform and accepted that there were huge infrastructure challenges and financial pressures across the country in relation to meeting new safety and environmental standards for water and wastewater.

“However, we simply do not accept the model for reform that is now being mandated is the right one.”

“Christchurch has invested heavily in its three waters infrastructure and our communities are relying on us to fulfil our commitment to having an unchlorinated drinking water supply by seeking an exemption from the chlorine mandate which has been put in place.

“The model the Government originally put forward did not allow us to insist that the new water entity pursue and maintain an exemption. The Cabinet decision released today outlines a way for us to continue to seek an exemption and, once granted, for the entity to continue to provide chlorine-free drinking water, and to consult with the communities about further exemptions.

“We are pleased the Government has listened to us on this point and made that concession.

“However, we also made it clear in our feedback that the delivery of stormwater services should remain with the Council. The Crown thinks that stormwater is managed in pipes, whereas ours is managed in an integrated way, through wetlands, floodplains and natural landscapes. We are not prepared to compromise that integrated approach.”

Mayor Dalziel said today’s announcement takes the decision out of council’s hands.

“But we will continue to voice our concerns to the Government through the submission process. We will also be strongly encouraging our communities to express their views.”

The Government has announced it will set up three working groups to refine some elements of the reforms.

One of the working groups will focus on representation, governance and accountability arrangements and another will focus on the interface between the reforms and the resource management system. The third working group will focus on transitioning rural community supplies.

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