Three Waters report and recommendations go to Council
An in-depth report examining the Government’s Three Waters reform proposals and what they mean for Marlborough has been tabled for consideration at the full Council meeting next Thursday 16 September.
The report includes analysis by Marlborough District Council staff into the Government’s projected savings and the claimed benefits of transferring Marlborough’s three waters infrastructure into one or more new water service entities.
Mayor John Leggett said the Council’s own analysis is revealing.
“The Government’s numbers are based on high growth projections and efficiency gains happening in Marlborough over the next thirty years. But when you recast the numbers with what in my view are more realistic growth and efficiency gains, the benefits in favour of transferring our Three Waters infrastructure and services are less convincing.”
“If Councillors support staff’s recommendations I will be asking the Government to allow us more time to do further work to quantify the net benefit of their proposals and, like other mayors, I’d like the Three Waters’ reforms to be carried out in conjunction with the Future of Local Government review that is also underway.”
“No decision is required from Council at this stage on the Three Waters proposals - we can reserve our position on whether we opt-in or opt-out of the process at this point. However we do want greater clarity on what the governance arrangements of the proposed entities will be, as well as a decision on our southern border. The Government’s current proposal splits our district into two new water entities and that means, if the proposals were to go ahead, Seddon residents would face higher water bills than Blenheim residents.”
“Our staff’s analysis shows there is a net financial benefit in opting in - in other words most Marlburians would be likely to pay less for their water in 30 years’ time, under the current information we have available to us. However, we have to weigh that up against the possibility that Marlborough will have a greatly reduced level of control over Three Waters capital expenditure and the prioritisation of the spend in our region.”
“The question that lies at the heart of these proposals is – ‘is this a price worth paying?’”
“Judging by the public feedback myself and councillors are currently receiving every day by phone and email, the answer to that question is a resounding ‘no’.”
“Losing control of an asset base that Marlburians have laboriously and carefully built up over many generations is a very hard pill to swallow for people here.”
“It seems logical that there probably are financial benefits from greater integration of water service entities in a small country like New Zealand. However, that doesn’t mean that this proposal on the table is the right one - and our report briefly canvasses what some other arrangements could look like, but we need to be given the opportunity by the Government to explore them properly.”
“But let’s wait for the discussion around the table next week and hear all councillors’ views on the recommendations I have made in the report.”
“It’s important that the public understands that, contrary to a popular misconception out there, no decision is required of Council to opt-in or opt-out at the moment. However we do plan to seek further public feedback over the coming weeks through a special email address: firstname.lastname@example.org and we’re planning to run videoconference webinars by Zoom.”
“I would encourage people to read the Council report and all the other information on our website at www.marlborough.govt.nz/your-council/three-waters-reform-proposals and then email us at the address above and let us know what you think.”
“Please put your name down for a webinar if you want to get into the detail and hear more of the Council’s view – it is a very complex set of issues.”
The Government is expected to provide further details of its water service entity proposals sometime in October, including the legislative changes necessary to give effect to the new structures. The Minister of Local Government Hon Nanaia Mahuta has consistently said that councils will be given an ‘opt-in’ or ‘opt-out’ decision opportunity.
The Local Government Act and the Council’s own policy requires a Long Term Plan amendment and a special consultative process prior to making any opt-in or opt-out decision. Council can only make that decision after a full public consultation.
It is not currently known when that formal consultation would need to happen – it all depends on the Government’s next steps.