Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Hamilton Mayor slams “eye-watering” cost of water reform

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate said reports released today about water reforms signals fundamental change is “critical” if New Zealand is to improve the way water infrastructure is funded and managed.

“I’ve not yet had time to consume the detail but it’s clear there has been huge under-investment in the waters business right across New Zealand,” Mayor Southgate (pictured) said.

“The numbers I’ve seen are eye-watering. Over the next 30 years, government is suggesting an investment of between $120 – $185 billion in waters will be needed nationally to bring three waters up to speed,” she said.

“Under the existing model, ratepayers are being forced to fund that investment either through rates or by taking on debt. It’s simply not affordable for any community, anywhere.”

“Going forward, given the level of investment needed, it’s obvious what we are doing is not sustainable; it’s already not working in parts of New Zealand. We need to accept that change is needed and we have to simply get on with it for the sake of our communities.”

Mayor Southgate said there were a “mountain of issues” still to work through and that the “devil would always be in the detail”.

But she said that fundamentally, she supported the government’s desire to see a change to the way water, wastewater and stormwater was managed and believed a cross-boundary solution was needed.

“Having 67 separate councils carry on what they’re doing makes no sense to me,” she said.

“Without reform, the data  indicates the cost of providing water services to our communities will be two or three times what it is now. How can ratepayers be expected to fund that?”

She said Hamilton would continue to work with its regional neighbours and government on details of how the reforms might play out.

“As far as I’m concerned, the train is on the track now; it’s not an option to pretend change is not needed and needed quickly.”

“Our job is to help guide the reform programme towards the best outcome for our community and for New Zealand overall.”

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