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Joint Approach To Water Services

2 August 2002

JOINT APPROACH TO WATER SERVICES WILL BENEFIT HUTT AND WELLINGTON CITIES

A proposed co-operative approach to managing water services in Wellington and Hutt Cities will deliver significant savings to ratepayers and ensure water assets remain under local authority control, Wellington CEO Garry Poole and Hutt City CEO Rik Hart said today.

"Better cooperation between our two Councils will result in higher standards of service through shared knowledge and expertise. We can improve efficiency and performance, achieve greater economies of scale and eliminate duplication across the two Councils," said Rik Hart.

Garry Poole said the proposal is about sharing management resources.

"Each Council will still be directly responsible for providing water services to its residents and each Council will still be responsible for maintaining its own water network."

A working group comprising officers of Hutt and Wellington cities looked at nine structural options for jointly managing water services. Five were eliminated from further consideration and four were subject to further, detailed study.

The preferred option is for a Regional Joint Management Unit, initially in the form of a Trust, which is similar to the structure of a Council Controlled Non-Profit Organisation, as provided for in the Local Government Bill 2001.

"We believe the Regional Joint Management Unit approach offers significant benefits for both cities," said Mr Poole.

The proposal would generate total savings of more than $4 million over five years, with savings of $1.6 million each year after that.

Both CEOs stressed that lessons were learned from last year's proposal to transfer public assets to a trust that would jointly manage the cities' water services. Under the new proposal no assets will be transferred out of direct council ownership.

"The key issue for many people regarding the earlier proposal was a concern, however misplaced, that the trust was a 'first step' towards eventual privatisation. The current proposal retains assets in public ownership while delivering significant savings to both Councils," said Mr Poole.

Next week Wellington City Councillors will be asked to agree to a public consultation on the establishment of a Regional Joint Management Unit for water services. The Unit would be run by a Board of Governors comprising a mix of Councillors from both cities and appointed representatives.

Hutt City Council will consider agreeing to a joint consultation on the proposal at a special meeting on 8 August, subject to agreement to the proposal from Wellington City Council.

If both Councils agree to consult on the new approach, there will be public consultation held within the next two months.

Since 1997 there have been five studies into ways in which greater integration of water services across the region could be achieved.

Ends

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