The Government’s four “mega-entity” Three Waters Reform model is not an acceptable solution for Marlborough, the district’s Mayor, John Leggett said today.
In Marlborough District Council’s submission to the Finance and Expenditure Committee on the Water Services Entities Bill, Mayor Leggett said Council accepted the country’s Three Waters sector faced significant challenges, and that changes were needed, but the Government’s proposal was not the right one.
“We do not accept that a one size fits all mega-entity structure will deliver results for our community,” Mayor Leggett said.
He said Marlborough’s opposition to the reforms was based on five key concerns – the loss of local democratic influence and control; loss of responsiveness and flexibility; lack of alignment of Three Waters Reform to the Resource Management Reform and the Future of Local Government review; inadequate consideration of alternative options and the boundary between entities C and D.
Mayor Leggett said the boundary issue was especially relevant for the region, with Councils in the top of the South Island having expressed concern about the potential impact of Tasman and Marlborough communities being split into different entities.
“It makes no practical sense for Seddon’s water scheme to be managed by Entity D, as is currently proposed, when Blenheim, located 20 kilometres away, will be managed by Entity C,” he said.
“The three Te Tau Ihu Councils (Marlborough District, Nelson City and Tasman District) and eight iwi have jointly submitted that Te Tauihu sit wholly within Entity D to avoid that split. There is also a closer community of interest with the South Island.
“The model proposes that Marlborough will be one of either 21 territorial authorities to make up Entity C, or one of 23 included in Entity D.
“Given only six or seven Council representatives are proposed for the Regional Representative Groups, the odds of Marlborough District Council being adequately represented at that level are not good.”
Mayor Leggett said such representation uncertainty was “unacceptable” given the importance of Three Waters to the regional environment, health, economy, and community generally.
“Marlborough District Council is also concerned about the loss of flexibility and responsiveness with the four mega-entities responsible for planning, funding and pricing decisions.”
“We contend the rigid set of funding and planning controls the Entities will operate under could significantly reduce the ability to respond quickly and flexibly to opportunities requiring, for example, quick decisions to revise capital programmes to enable residential subdivision,” Mayor Leggett said.
Marlborough District Council is a member of the Communities 4 Local Democracy, a group of 31 Councils representing 1.3 million people who strongly oppose the proposal and engaged consultants Castalia to develop alternatives.
“We strongly endorse the C4LD submission and the alternative models it proposes,.”
“We believe these alternative models better achieve the reform objectives without the hugely significant loss of local democratic voice,” Mayor Leggett said.