In all the murkiness surrounding the Government’s proposed Three Waters Reform, one thing is crystal clear to Tauranga City Commission Chair Anne Tolley.
“What we’re hearing loud and clear from our communities is that they don’t understand the reforms and would like Tauranga City Council to reject them,” she said.
Anne shared feedback from Council and the results of an online community survey with Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta last week.
Feedback from the community highlights a lack of information coming from the Government and raises many areas of concern, including what opportunities there will be for community input into the reform in the form of consultation or a referendum.
Questions about loss of local control, ownership of assets, mana whenua involvement, and the efficiency and cost of services under the proposed new model were also put forward, with the majority of respondents opposed to the reform in general.
According to Department of Internal Affairs analysis, Tauranga City Council is one of the top five councils in the country in terms of delivering drinking water, wastewater and stormwater right now. However, the environment councils are operating in is changing. Increasingly stringent environmental standards will require expensive upgrades to meet national standards and local community expectations.
Multiple pressures from climate change also mean the delivery of existing levels of service will become progressively more costly due to more frequent heavy rain events, an increase in the severity of drought conditions and a transition to a lower carbon economy.
Anne acknowledged reform could strengthen Council’s financial position by removing current three waters debt from its balance sheet, but she said the actual proposition from the Government is still largely unclear. This is a complex issue that affects many aspects from asset ownership, the cost to communities of water services into the future, and the impact of a changing environment.
“There’s simply not enough factual information available about the current proposal for Council or the community to provide definitive feedback or make an informed decision at this stage of the process.”
She said it was encouraging to see community interest in this important issue.
“Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts; we really appreciate your input and will let you know when we hear what the Government’s next steps are going to be.”
Councils throughout New Zealand assessed the latest Government information over an eight-week review period which concluded on 1 October.
View the full feedback report here.