Three Waters debate brews in WBOP
A former Western Bay of Plenty District councillor is urging people to speak up about Three Waters Reform.
Councils around the country have until October 1 to submit their feedback on the government’s proposal.
Under the proposed reforms, councils would hand over their drinking water, stormwater and a sewerage systems to be run by large publicly-owned entities — along with any associated debt.
The government says the new water authorities will have the borrowing power and efficiencies of scale that councils lack, to replace ageing pipes and get water services up to standard in an affordable way.
Last week, Local Government NZ president, and former Tauranga Council mayor, Stuart Crosby updated councils on the reaction to the proposed.
He says LGNZ's national council is hearing from councils around the country that the number and pace of reforms are placing them under serious pressure.
"Councils are also being put in the unwelcome position of explaining central government policy to their communities, sometimes in the absence of public-facing detail from the Government, especially in three waters."
There is a sense that local democracy is being undermined and LGNZ has pushed back on this. Read more here.
It’s not just Local Government having an issue with this, residents in the Western Bay of Plenty have also been voicing their concerns.
Christina Humphreys, who was a councillor for the Western Bay of Plenty before stepping down and triggering by-election last year, says she will be submitting her concerns to WBOP Council on Thursday.
She says about six people from the Katikati ward are expected to be present at the meeting on Thursday, but due to Level 2 restrictions, council has told her that speakers will be limited.
“We were hoping to get some certainty from the mayor and councillors that they are on the same side as ratepayers, because we wish to keep our water assets that ratepayers have paid for and built up over many years,” says Christina.
“Western Bay District over the years have built up and paid the money to have a very satisfactory asset that serves us well.
“Why should we allow the control of this asset, to be taken away from us and have to pay higher fees to other entities to manage our assets? Something is wrong with this picture?”
Christina is urging people to submit their thoughts on the proposal before it is too late.
“It’s time now for you all to speak up, we are fast having all our assets taken. Assets you have paid for and the upkeep for years and years. We are losing ownership of and our democracy.”
Earlier this month, WBOPDC Mayor Garry Webber called for patience on the matter.
The call came as various ratepayer groups in the Western Bay and Tauranga communities called for more transparency, with some even suggesting a referendum is necessary to make the decision.
He took to the Council’s Facebook page to address concerns. He highlights the fact that, at present, participation remains voluntary and that WBOPDC are not yet in a position where a decision has to be made.
“Right now we are not being asked to decide to opt in or out of the reform,” says Webber.
“Like all councils, we've been given an eight-week window to study the Government's proposal, understand the likely effect it would have on us and provide feedback to the Government by October 1.”
He says WBOPDC’s concerns and questions over the reforms vary, including undertaking an analysis of Council information to assess the impacts of Three Waters and comparing the reform scenario to that in which Council continues to deliver water services.
“This analysis covers several areas including service levels, finance and funding, workforce and capability, and social, community and economic well-being,” he says.
Webber says he understands why the community has a vested interest in how the area’s Three Waters services are delivered.
However, with the Government still waiting for feedback, not an opt-in, from councils, Garry says it is not yet the appropriate time for extensive community consultation.