My thoughts on Three Waters

This blog post was originally published on my Facebook page (21st July 2022), but I want to share it here so that you can see my position on Three Waters.

Tomorrow is the cut off for you to have your say on the proposed Three Waters Reform. I have been very clear about my opposition to these reforms on a number of levels. I simply don’t accept that transferring control of our water infrastructure into one of four Mega Water Entities as proposed is in the best interests of residents and ratepayers of Waipa. I hold this view for many reasons but here are a few:

💦 I don’t believe our community’s views have been considered sufficiently on a major reform of critical importance over publically owned assets.

💦 I don’t have confidence the modelling will produce the predicted savings. To put it plainly, the underlying assumptions made in the government’s modelling are unrealistic. These are the findings of two independent peer reviews of the modelling.

💦 I am not satisfied transferring the control of $480 million dollars of assets in exchange for $20 million is a sound business decision. Furthermore I am concerned about the controls and caveats the government has placed on and around how this money would be spent.

💦 I am not satisfied the claim that Waipa ratepayers will still own the assets is a valid one. The legal notion of “ownership” has many characteristics – the most commonly understood one is “having control”. As “owners” Waipa ratepayers will not have any control over their assets. To say they do is simply wrong.

💦 I am deeply concerned about the loss of local voice and influence over the proposed entities especially as it is critical that waters investment aligns with our planning for future growth. The odds of Waipa having a seat around the governance table of Entity B (which represents 22 councils stretching from Rangitikei District in the south, Opotiki District in the east, South Taranaki District to the west and Thames-Coromandel District to the north) are slight.

💦 Analysis of the Waipa situation shows us as a relatively strong performer in the Three Waters space: we charge slightly lower than average water rates compared to the rest of Entity B, our investment in and planning for waters infrastructure has been good historically, we work well with our neighbours, we have good relationships with Iwi, we have a strong in-house workforce in this area is and our rating base is growing. This being the case our ratepayers will be faced with cross-subsidising those from districts who have not made that historical investment.

Now I’m not am not saying that water reform is not needed, I think it is and there is clear analysis of that, but I am not convinced these reforms take a form that is acceptable to our residents nor will it deliver the results claimed.

I favour a more regionally collaborative approach which retains local voice and influence while at the same time affords our residents and ratepayers benefits of the economies of scale. Central government should look to alternative funding models for these where further investment is necessary.

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