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Councils shocked Government is pushing through three waters reforms

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Community concerns have been ignored, local decision-making will be lost

Hawke’s Bay’s Councils are shocked and disappointed Government intends pressing ahead with legislation to remove responsibility for three waters service delivery from local authorities, despite outstanding questions over governance arrangements and loss of local voice in this stage of decision-making.

Hon Nanaia Mahuta has today announced Government will legislate to force local councils to hand over their drinking water, waste water and storm water assets to four new multi-regional entities. The changes, which Government expects to take effect from mid-2024, would see responsibility for Hawke’s Bay’s three waters assets and service delivery transfer to a multi-regional entity responsible for the whole of the East Coast of the North Island, the top of the South Island and the Chatham Islands.

Hawke’s Bay’s local government leaders say they are frustrated their concerns and those of local communities have not been addressed, and they are especially disappointed the Minister has not been prepared to consider their credible proposal for a local alternative that would see responsibility for drinking, waste and storm water services staying in Hawke’s Bay. 

Alex Walker, Mayor of Central Hawke’s Bay District Council says councils went into the reform process in good faith, assuming Government was genuinely committed to working with Local Government to land an outcome that would address the compelling case for change to ensure ongoing safe, efficient and affordable three waters services.

“Government gave us the opportunity to assess their proposals and provide feedback. Here in Hawke’s Bay, we were in a really strong position to do that given the detailed regional review we did together last year and feedback from our communities.”

“We went back to them with constructive feedback, setting out our concerns and proposing responsibility for drinking, waste and storm water services should stay in Hawke’s Bay.” she says.

“Despite our entirely credible proposal as to how that could happen, Government is now pushing ahead.” she says.

Craig Little, Mayor of Wairoa says he is horrified at Government’s apparent disinterest in listening to the wishes of local communities.

“The people of Wairoa have made it very clear to us they do not want to see control of their three waters services disappearing off to some far-flung faceless organisation, in which they have no voice.” he says.

“Government went into this process giving Councils the option to opt out of reforms. Yet that option is clearly now off the table, and they intend ramming through the changes regardless of what our communities want, which is preposterous and, frankly misleading.”

“What’s more, there are so many unanswered questions from today’s announcement. I really worry there will be a whole series of legacy issues this creates for future generations, and that just isn’t good enough.”

Mayor Kirsten Wise says it is simply unacceptable the choice is being taken out of community hands.

“Our communities have told us, and we agree, that the most important thing is to keep hold of local voice in decision making. We have paved the way for managing three waters as a region working together. We have put in place the planning and the resources for our significant work programme.

“We acted in good faith throughout this process and we want to work in partnership with Government. For them to blatantly ignore us, and to blind-side us like this, is shocking.”

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst says she is absolutely devastated about today’s announcement.

“Our community is upset and angry with the government’s approach to mandating this three waters entity model.

“Our community have made their views very clear that they do not want to be part of an entity that controls water assets for 21 councils, 23 iwi groups and around a million people spanning from the East Coast of the North Island to the top of the South Island and the Chatham Islands.

“We have very big concerns about this model and our community are demanding the chance to have their say about the future of their three waters assets, which they have invested many millions of dollars on.”

“Hawke’s Bay has been leading in this space and we proposed a regional solution that wasn’t the status quo – but a model that achieved an affordable and sustainable three waters for our communities.

“I am dismayed the government hasn’t listened.”

Ms Hazlehurst says Mayors will be working closely together to discuss where to from here.

“We have never disagreed with the need for change, but it is our responsibility to do what is right for Hawke’s Bay and for our communities. The way Government is going about the reform shows complete disregard for what our communities have told us, and we will continue to advocate for the outcome we believe our district and our region deserves.” 

Details of the Government’s Three Waters Reforms are available at www.dia.govt.nz/Three-Waters-Reform-Programme and Hawke’s Bay’s Three Waters Review at www.hb3waters.nz

27 October 2021

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