WBOP Mayor joins Three Waters reform working group
Western Bay of Plenty Mayor Garry Webber has been appointed to the national working group tasked with resolving sticking points in Government’s Three Waters reform.
Mayor Garry joins 19 other local government and iwi representatives making up the working group established by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta.
The working group’s role is to recommend strengthened governance and accountability arrangements for the Three Waters Reform Programme.
The working group formation follows Minister Mahuta announcing in October that Government will make its Three Waters reform mandatory for all councils, rejecting the option to make it voluntary.
The reform will see the management of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater transferred from 67 councils to four public-owned entities from July 1, 2024.
Webber says he is pleased to be selected on the working group featuring a cross section of big to small metropolitan, rural and provincial councils.
“I look forward to working with the other local government and iwi representatives to provide critical and carefully considered recommendations to inform the final entity design.
“At the end of the day our goal is to find solutions that are in the best interests of councils right across Aotearoa, New Zealand.”
Webber says it's important local councils such as Western Bay can shape the appropriate change having voiced serious concerns with Government’s draft reform proposal.
“As a Council we tried to be constructive in our feedback and so I think Government has taken note of this.”
The Working Group will report back to Government in March 2022, which ensures there is time for the advice and recommendations to inform the final entity design.
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced the working group on Wednesday afternoon.
In a statement to the media, she says the working group is made up of local government and iwi representatives to recommend strengthened governance and accountability arrangements for the Three Waters Reform Programme.
“I recently announced that four water services entities would be established to ensure that all New Zealanders get safe, reliable and affordable water services,” says Mahuta.
“The feedback we heard from local government over the recent two-month engagement period raised a number of concerns about the proposed representation, governance and accountability arrangements for the new entities. To address this, Cabinet agreed to establish a working group to take a fresh look at these aspects of the entity design.
“This initiative is another important step in our transformational Three Waters reform which aims to ensure every New Zealander has access to affordable, safe and sustainable drinking water, waste water and storm water services without ballooning costs to households and families.”
Nanaia Mahuta. Photo: RNZ.
Mahuta says is confident the members of the Working Group on Representation, Governance and Accountability of new Water Services Entities will bring diverse and representative perspectives to the table.
She says establishing this working group will ensure entities have accountability back to the communities they serve, and ensure an open and transparent process.
The Working Group on Representation, Governance and Accountability of new Water Services Entities is comprised of 20 members, including an independent chairperson, nine elected members of local authorities, nine iwi/Maori representatives, and the chair of the joint Central-Local Government Three Waters Steering Committee.
It will be independently chaired by Doug Martin, a highly experienced advisor in public sector organisational performance.
He was a member of Auckland Council’s Council-Controlled Organisation Independent Review Panel and was appointed Crown Manager to Christchurch City Council to help it regain its accreditation as a building consent authority.
Local Government New Zealand Chair Stuart Crosby said LGNZ is pleased that the Government has acknowledged feedback from local government leaders and is committed to working with the sector, leveraging the strength of the Heads of Agreement, on developing solutions to critical issues the sector has identified.
“The Working Group will help develop solutions to sticking points around representation and accountability, and other critical issues for councils,” says Mahuta.
“New Zealanders need water services which will meet the diverse needs of our communities, needs our councils understand better than anyone, and we are confident this working group is the circuit breaker to get the model right.
“The Working Group will work in an open and transparent way, including by making its advice and recommendations publicly available.
“It’s a bottom line for the government that water services entities continue to be publicly-owned, have operational and financial autonomy to make much needed investment, and have oversight from local authorities and mana whenua. It is essential that our water services allow for local influence and democratic accountability.”
The Working Group will report back in March 2022, which ensures there is time for the advice and recommendations to inform the final entity design.
The Working Group members are:
• Independent Chairperson: Doug Martin
• Elected members of local authorities: Mayor Phil Goff, Auckland, Mayor Dr Jason Smith, Kaipara, Mayor Garry Webber, Western Bay of Plenty, Mayor Neil Holdom, New Plymouth, Mayor Campbell Barry, Lower Hutt, Mayor Rachel Reese, Nelson, Mayor Lianne Dalziel, Christchurch, Mayor Tim Cadogan, Central Otago, and Mayor Lyn Patterson, Masterton.
• Iwi/Māori representatives: Ngarimu Blair, Jamie Tuuta, Karen Vercoe, Ngahiwi Tomoana, Olivia Hall, Gabrielle Huria, Barry Bragg, and John Bishara. (One further representative for Entity A to be confirmed)
• Chair of the joint Central-Local Government Three Waters Steering Committee: Brian Hanna