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Hutt City Council Decisions On Water Infrastructure Show Urgent Reform Is Needed

Lower Hutt Mayor Campbell Barry says decisions Hutt City Council have made on water infrastructure funding show urgent reform is needed.

Council has agreed to put forward for consultation an option which would maintain the current baseline funding, with the additional investment of water meters in the draft Long Term Plan (LTP). This alone is a significant uplift in funding of $590m over the 10 year period of the LTP.

“Council has agreed to put forward for consultation an option which would maintain the current investment programme funding which includes investment of water meters in the draft Long Term Plan (LTP). This alone is a significant uplift in funding of $590M over ten years.”

The advice from Wellington Water was for the Council to maintain baseline funding with water meters and a significant increase in renewals. However, due to concerns about unaffordable rates and debt headroom constraints the Council has not recommended this as its preferred option.

A tabled letter from Wellington Water Board Chair Nick Leggett noted advice that $7.6 billion of total investment should be made by the shareholding councils. This is a significant increase from the $1.9 billion that councils put into their 2021 LTP.

The letter shows concern that significant underfunding of the region’s water assets will compound the current issues of water leaks and supply.

Mayor Barry says the entire situation reaffirms that unless there is water reform, councils will not be able to make the necessary investments.

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"We know we need to invest more, but councils simply don’t have the financial tools to do it without breaching debt caps and/or imposing a decade of astronomical rate increases. Reform is desperately needed.

"The letter from Wellington Water shows our region needs to invest $7.6 billion for the coming decade. This is necessary, but completely unaffordable within our current structure.

"Councils across the country are facing significant financial pressures in preparing their LTPs. Without urgency and a clear plan forward by government around water reform, those pressures will only get worse.

"Without reform my fear is that we will fall even further behind in the investment that’s desperately needed.

"The new government should be considering this issue at its first cabinet meeting today to give councils across New Zealand some direction on their next steps."

Hutt City Council continues to work on its Draft LTP. The draft plan will be finalised in March with consultation occurring in April.

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