Call on Govt to maintain partnership approach to reforms
Ruapehu District Council said that they are still wanting to receive a response to their questions and concerns around 3 waters reform sent to Minister Mahuta on the 23 September, and a commitment that the 'better off-not worse off' financial support promises still stand, despite her announcement that participation for all councils is now mandatory.
While Council has said that we accept that reform is needed, and that our ratepayers cannot afford (from a debt perspective) to pay for the required infrastructure investments without Government support, we have also been clear that we did not have enough information on a number of key issues important to our communities.
Mayor Don Cameron said Council supported the first stages of the reform process in good faith on the basis that Government had taken a ‘voluntary, partnership-based’ approach to 3 waters reform working with the local government sector and iwi/Māori as the Crown’s Treaty Partner.
"Up until the Minister's announcement Council was anticipating that we would have the opportunity to ask our community by way of a referendum on whether they supported the reform proposals.
We had scheduled this for when the reform proposals had reached the Select Committee stage in parliament as we believed by this time we would have the final model and answers to the outstanding issues we and other councils have been asking about.
We are not happy that this opportunity for our community to have their say has been taken out of our hands.
Despite inclusion for all councils being mandated, we call upon Government to continue its stated 'partnership-based' approach by answering our outstanding questions and concerns, and confirming that earlier promises to support Council with the transition will be honoured," he said.
Mayor Cameron noted that while Government has announced the establishment of the working groups to address these and other issues, it must be recognized that the mandate has deepened the feelings of mistrust and apprehension held by many in our community toward the process, and what they see as Government over-reach.
"We feel strongly that Government now needs to do everything it can to satisfy any outstanding concerns specifically around ownership, local voice and control of water assets.
And further to this, other significant reforms such as to the Resource Management Act and the future role of local government, should be put on hold until the 3 waters issue is fully resolved," he said.
Mayor Don Cameron added that he hoped this statement from Council would help to clarify his personal comment on 'Ruapehu welcoming the end of the uncertainty around 3 waters reform' made on 27 October when Minister Mahuta announced that participation for all councils would be mandatory, which some intepreted as support from Council for the Government's actions.