A delegation from Manawatū District Council has voiced its opposition to the Government’s proposed Three Waters Reform at the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee this week.
The delegation, led by Deputy Mayor, Michael Ford, explained that among concerns around property rights and fair compensation for the investment made by residents, there was a real possibility that the transfer of Three Waters services into the proposed entities would stifle economic development.
“When approached by a developer with a proposed development that involves an extension to three waters networks, MDC is able to negotiate directly with the developer to reach a mutually acceptable solution… The transfer of decision-making from local government to Entity C will remove MDC’s ability to work directly with customers to develop customised solutions,” said Councillor Ford.
The delegation questioned the proposed entities abilities to cater for land use planning without local knowledge at a decision making level and also highlighted that decision making around three waters assets needs to be made in conjunction with roading, District Planning and economic development.
Concerns were also raised about stormwater issues in Feilding, which have been highlighted by recent extreme rainfall events. Council has already begun to address some of the issues identified, formulating an $18 million plan to mitigate future flooding.
“We are concerned that divorcing decision-making for stormwater management from Council’s land use decision-making will result in poor outcomes,” said Cr Ford.
Speaking as the Chair of Communities 4 Local Democracy, Manawatū District Mayor, Helen Worboys said Council had commissioned its own modelling which demonstrated that the transition costs of setting up the new entities was wasteful.
“Castalia’s modelling for us shows that capital expenditure in the sector is actually financeable for the next 20 years, and beyond that with only the most modest of price increases. Accordingly, the four mega entity, “balance sheet separation” is simply not necessary. Other structural alternatives do exist and would effectively address the core problem,” said Mayor Worboys.
Council says calculations made by the Department for Internal Affairs (DIA) have exaggerated residents savings on water rates, based on flawed assumptions that weren’t checked prior to proposed reforms being made public.
Cr Ford called on the government to engage in meaningful dialogue with councils and work with Communities 4 Local Democracy on a co-designed model.
“This model does not work for our District. Our system is not broken. It needs enhancing. Communities 4 Local Democracy have given you the way forward, which Manawatu District Council supports,” he said.