Submission highlights 3 Waters challenges
Council has signed-off on a submission to the Water Services Entities Bill which will create the new multi-regional entities for delivering water services from 1 July 2024 as part of the Government’s three waters reform.
Mayor Don Cameron said that in setting out how the new entities would operate and be accountable to the public the Bill was a central part of the reform programme.
“While Council has said that we accept that reform is needed and support the Bill's objectives, we felt it was important to clearly highlight our concerns over how the proposed legislation could impact on the future of our communities,” he said.
“In doing so we felt the most constructive approach was to remind Government of the unique challenges rural councils like Ruapehu have in meeting the required water standards with a small rating base and funding issues.
Although solving funding challenges is a key reform outcome we highlighted the need for further interim Government investment to maintain three waters investment between now and when the new Entities take control.
Council also noted future affordability concerns for our small communities without a specific guarantee of price harmonisation being written into the Bill.”
Mayor Cameron said that another major concern was the potential future lack of influence over local development or service needs.
“As is, Council will only have one share on Entity B alongside 21 other councils which risks our local voice and considerations being drowned out by other councils who will have larger shareholdings.
We feel that under the proposed structure our small communities may not be well placed to be heard by a large multi-regional entity.
Other issues Council submitted on included; ownership rights, protection of community wellbeing, iwi-Māori partnerships, governance and future legislative impacts amongst other things.”
Mayor Cameron noted that there were a number of aspects to the proposed Bill that Council did support such as the ‘Statement of Strategic and Performance Expectations’, upholding the principles of Te Mana o te Wai, protections against privatisation and a focus on climate change.
“Unfortunately, the 'devil is in the detail' and much of the desired detail was either not in the Bill or still unclear.
Council's submission has stated that we are uncomfortable with the reform process proceeding while these gaps exist.
We have requested that Government allow time for a revised approach to be reflected in the draft legislation that specifically addresses our concerns,” he said.