LGNZ President, Stuart Crosby says the Government’s decisions on the Three Waters Governance Working Group recommendations provide much-needed momentum on water reform.
The government has accepted 44 of the three waters working group’s 47 recommendations for changes to its water infrastructure reform programme, with some minor changes.
Local Government Minister, Nanaia Mahuta today confirmed councils would be given non-financial shareholding interests in the four new water service entities.
The ownership would be allocated based on population – with one share per 50,000 people, rounded up to ensure at least one share per council – and would be reassessed to account for population changes every five years.
“Councils face big future bills for water services given the new regulator, the unknown condition of many pipes and the impact of climate change. Without reform, ratepayers will be hit in the pocket,” said Mr Crosby.
“Everyone in the local government sector is advocating for change to our three waters system, even those opposed to the Government’s model. No one thinks the status quo is sustainable.
“LGNZ is encouraged to see the Minister support the Working Group’s recommendations around making public ownership crystal clear, through a shareholding for councils. We also support the changes to strengthen communities’ and councils’ voices. These changes address key concerns and we’ve pushed hard for them.”
He said that, without reform, many councils will struggle to meet new water standards and face prosecution by the new water regulator if not meeting standards.
“All New Zealanders deserve safe drinking water – and our environment deserves first-world waste and stormwater services. That means fundamental change to how water services are funded and delivered – not in 10 or 20 years’ time but now.”
“Our communities need certainty. They can’t afford the huge costs that come with doing nothing and maintaining the status quo.”
Mr Crosby said LGNZ supports the Governance Working Group’s recommendations because they strengthen the model.
“Clarifying ownership protects against privatisation; and community connection is enhanced by adding subgroups to the Regional Representative Groups,” he said.
“Councils will play a critical role in three waters after reform. They will go from being involved in the operational delivery to being responsible for planning for growth and resilience, being the voice of their communities, and monitoring performance.”