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Horowhenua District Council - Three Waters Reform Update

We know some of our community have felt uninformed and disengaged over the Three Waters Reform proposal. We’ve seen the comments on social media, we’ve listened to the feedback given in passing to our Councillors, and many of you have asked us when we are going to consult with our community.

Government has directed councils to assess the proposed package, understand how it could impact their region and provide suggestions for improving the Three Waters Reform model. They’ve made it clear that no formal decision is being sought at this point in the process, which means our normal consultation process isn’t triggered.

In light of this, Councillors have been working with Council Officers, independent advisors and meeting with other mayors and councils to ensure they understand the model, the data and its impacts as best they can so that they can provide insightful, strategic and considered feedback to Government.

Council has called an extraordinary meeting on the 29th September to consider the feedback it will provide to Government. This update is to provide an overview of the themes and suggestions that will be considered by Council.

Key themes and suggestions

Community voice and support

· Water Service Entities are obligated to deliver their services and investment programme in a manner that supports (or improves) community resilience.

· Water Service Entities are required to meet reasonable response times, likely to only be possible with local knowledge and a local presence for emergency response.

· Water Service Entities are required to consider affordability in setting charges.

· Water Service Entities are required to collaborate with councils so customers offered rates relief are also recognised by Water Service Entities.

Order of reforms

· The water reform process be sequenced to ensure that the likely impact of any changes arising from the Future of Local Government process is clearly understood when considering the combined implications for Council.

· The outcomes of the Future of Local Government Review should be determined before implementing the Three Waters Reform.

Representation and governance

· Water Service Entities are required to plan for and deliver services in a manner that supports the delivery of the proposed regional Spatial Plans and district-level Long Term Plans.

· Water Service Entities are required to follow consultation requirements with local communities and councils, similar to the requirements for local authorities in the Local Government Act.

· We suggest that Water Service Entities investigate opportunities to duplicate the Tasmanian Water and Sewerage Industry Model.

· Development contributions provided for development in a council’s region (Horowhenua) should directly benefit the local community.

· Water Service Entities are required to provide an investment prioritisation framework.

Supporting growth infrastructure

· There is a clear process for every council to influence the Statement of Expectation for their water service provider, to ensure alignment of service delivery with their strategic priorities. The new entities should be required to develop an Infrastructure Strategy, Financial Strategy and detailed 30 year plan in line with the Local Government Act.

· At a minimum, Long Term Plan investment plans (including the relevant Asset Management Plans) are grand-parented into the initial programme of activity for the new Water Service Entities.

· A minimum underpinned quantity investment per annum in water infrastructure is specified for each region to ensure infrastructure is built to meet future demand.

· Water Service Entities are required (under establishment legislation) to support and enable growth committed to in Spatial Plans and Long Term Plans.

· The principles used to allocate the “better off” funding package should be carried into the allocation of capital funding for new entities.

· Development contributions be set based on the Horowhenua catchment and not harmonised.

Alternate options for delivery

· Government considers alternative methods to deliver efficient three waters services, for example through a Council Controlled Organisation that services multiple councils in a region or an expansion of the current alliance delivery model.

· Government considers alternative funding arrangements to deliver three waters services, such as increasing debt ceilings or providing direct central government funding for councils to continue to provide three waters services.

· Consider the aggregation of three waters principally focussed on the proposed entities simply becoming a centre of subject matter excellence (design and procurement) rather than infrastructure planning and delivery.

Transition and delivery

· The Government works closely with local authorities to plan for, adequately fund and resource transition activity to ensure that service delivery is maintained alongside transition planning and implementation.

· Transition planning recognises the need to adopt project-specific transition arrangements.

Growing and supporting our economy

· Water Service Entities are required (under establishment legislation) to support and enable providing for new and existing businesses as committed to in Spatial Plans and Long Term Plans.

· Water Service Entities are required to implement sustainable procurement practices throughout the supply chain including contributing to local employment and economic activity.

Council will meet on 29 September 2021 at 2pm to discuss the Three Waters Reform Report that they will take to Government addressing their feedback. A copy of the report will be included in the meeting agenda. Visit www.horowhenua.govt.nz/CouncilMeetings to read more.

Cabinet Ministers plan to meet in October 2021 to discuss the feedback gathered and will make decisions on the next steps in the reform process including mechanisms for community consultation.

Council meetings and participation

Due to COVID-19 Alert Level 2 restrictions, this meeting will be held in person; however, members of the public will not be able to attend. The public can watch the live-stream on www.horowhenua.govt.nz/CouncilMeetingsLive.

For those that may not have internet access at home but would like to watch the meeting, a screen will be set up in the foyer area of Council’s main office.

Guidelines for visiting our Customer Service Centres can be viewed on www.horowhenua.govt.nz/ServicesinAlertLevel2.

During Alert Level 2 you can still be part of the decision-making process, by making a written submission that will be referred to during the meeting. Send your submission to public.participation@horowhenua.govt.nz or contact our Governance Team on 06 366 0999. You may also email supporting information that will be circulated to Council before the meeting. Requests for public participation and/or submissions must be received no later than 12 pm on the day of the meeting.

For more information on Three Waters Reform visit www.Horowhenua.govt.nz/3watersreform or www.dia.govt.nz/three-waters-reform-programme-frequently-asked-questions.

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