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From the Mayor

June 13, 2022 June 2022, Regular Features No Comments

This month, the Star management have asked for an overview on 3Waters, and what I think of it. As there is limited space, I can really only give you an overview of my thoughts – I could go on for pages.

Council as a whole has not come out with a definitive stance on 3Waters for the following reasons:

Government has declared they are the consulting body with public and iwi, not Local Government.

The information we require to form an opinion has been drip-fed and is still incomplete, especially in areas of asset transfer, costs to public, future standards, and water races to name but a few.

There is a high level of distrust in Central Government over the way the process has been started, advertised, discussed and progressed, and the likelihood of South Wairarapa’s opinions being able to change the direction is considered to be minimal.

As such, we have put forward our questions and concerns, repeatedly raised them when they were not answered, and continue to do so in the absence of clear answers. 

It appears the Government does not have the answers, as they are creating the detailed proposal as they go.  This is poor law making.

In general, we accept there is a ‘case for change’, as the government continually parrots.  For decades, Councils around NZ have not invested as needed in the water infrastructure.

But there are reasons for this:

Central Government ceased assisting in infrastructure projects with the dissolution of the Public Works Act in 1992.

Central Government continues to impose unfunded mandates on Local Government, requiring rates to rise without addressing infrastructure.

Councils cannot rate for the investment needed without a backlash from members of the community, and in the past have gravitated to the politically visible investment instead of what must be done.

Councils are stopped from borrowing at levels they need to fund big projects, under the Local Government Act. 

Central Government continually raises the standards of drinking and wastewater discharge, making compliant systems in need of replacement before they were planned

The Council has sharply increased the investment in water infrastructure, as well as essential services that were being left undone. 

It will not be enough to meet increasing standards we are seeing proposed by Government, and the spiralling costs of capital projects.

The resultant rates increases to cope with the issues has been criticised by the very people who demanded change in addressing lack of infrastructure spending, placing further accelerated infrastructure investment in doubt.

Since this process started, I have been vocal in my criticism over what the Government is doing – as have a number of Councillors. 

There has been no consultation, little engagement of merit, and local Māori have not been consulted in a manner we feel to be good practice.

The selection of a model based out of Scotland, an area with only a quarter of the land mass of NZ, a 95% connection rate to water services, and the population of Europe to call upon for human resources, appears extremely flawed.

Other options, such as Tasmania Water and various water entities in Australia, have not been used, despite them being relevant, more equitable and likely acceptable to Local Government and communities alike.

So it would be fair to state that in my opinion:

I am unhappy with, and opposed to, the process undertaken by the Government in how to deal with water services delivery

The proposed solution is poorly justified, overly bureaucratic, relies on debatable data, and ignores more logical solutions closer to our economic region

The predicted savings though sizeable, are unlikely to be realised in any of our lifetimes due to the inefficiencies of scale, massive setup costs, and lack of positive local input into solutions and cost

I accept change must occur to allow the investment in water infrastructure without rating pushback, but feel this is a worst case solution to the problem

Given the mandate and power of a non-coalition Government, Councils are attempting to moderate what we can in a seemingly inevitable process.

Nga mihi  Mayor Alex

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