High community interest in 3 waters reforms
There was a lot of interest in the first of two public hui on the government’s proposed reforms to the 3 waters (drinking, storm, waste) held in Taumarunui this week with a second scheduled for Raetihi at the Baptist Church Hall next Wednesday October 20.
Mayor Don Cameron said that Council has organised the two community hui to outline the challenges facing councils in providing 3 waters services, what we know about the reform proposals so far, and the associated implications to Council and our communities.
“We have been very aware of the calls from the community for more information on 3 waters reform and the opportunity for people to have their say,” he said.
“While some councils have been consulting with their communities on the reform proposals Ruapehu has followed the firm advice that this would be premature as the model is still under development.
Council has however resolved to hold a referendum on the reform proposals when they reach the Select Committee stage in parliament by which time the final model and answers to the outstanding issues should be resolved.
In Ruapehu we have six drinking water, and six wastewater schemes, servicing around 5,500 connections for household and commercial water use, as well as being responsible for managing storm water run-off across the district.
With such a small ratepayer base and so many schemes, Council is in total agreement that we cannot afford the estimated $600 million in water infrastructure investment required for Ruapehu over the next 30 years without significant financial assistance.
The Government’s proposed solution is to establish four large multi-regional water entities that would replace the 67 separate councils (or their agencies) which currently manage their district 3 waters services independently as well as taking over Council's water debt.
With our water debt projected to rise to $65 million over the next ten years in meeting drinking water compliance standards alone transferring our water debt to a new entity is a significant incentive,” he said.
Mayor Cameron added that the reforms also include the establishment of a new water regulator Taumata Arowai that will act as a protector of consumer interests and provide mechanisms to recognise treaty rights and prevent future privatisation.
“It is worth noting however that under Government’s proposal councils would continue to own the water assets and iwi would have a co-governance role,” he said.
“Government believes that the proposed multi-regional entities will deliver benefits of scale and provide the solution to meeting affordability challenges, higher drinking water and environmental regulations and rising community expectations.
Without reform average household water costs in Ruapehu are estimated to climb to around $10,000 per annum over the next 30 years in order to pay for the investment in 3 waters infrastructure we need while with reform they are estimated at only $1,220.
Councils are currently waiting on Government's response to our feedback to the reforms which will include the timeframes and responsibilities for any community consultation which is expected to be released shortly.
If people are looking for more information they should look at Council's website where they will find answers to FAQ's as well as links to other official information sources, or come along to the Raetihi hui next Wednesday (20 Oct) which will also be live-streamed over our Facebook page.”