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South Wairarapa Council Shifts Funds For Water Services

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] is shifting money around as it plans for future water upgrades under the government's proposed new approach.

SWDC chief executive Janice Smith said the government had “made it very clear there are no new funds available” to support councils to transition to a new entity that would replace the previous government’s Three Waters model.

The council voted to reallocate $800,000 of funding granted by the previous government to meet potential costs arising from the development of a water services plan and to transition to a “Local Waters Done Well” model.

The council had previously allocated the money to a community wellbeing fund, of which $500,000 remains.

This wellbeing fund was originally set up with the intent to distribute $1.3 million of the government’s “Better Off Funding” to community-based projects.

The alternative to approving the reallocation of funds was to increase rates by an additional 3.2 per cent.

Money has been reallocated in South Wairarapa to fund work towards a new water services model. PHOTO/MARCUS ANSELM/LOCAL DEMOCRACY REPORTING

Earlier this year, the Minister of Local Government sent a letter to councils outlining the next steps for the proposed Local Waters Done Well legislation, which replaces the previous government’s Three Waters Reform.

The new approach includes a streamlined process for the setting up of water services council-controlled organisations, requirements for councils to develop Water Services Delivery Plans and steps towards future economic regulation.

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The coalition government has reviewed the funding that was allocated to water reform by the previous government and has asked councils to “identify opportunities to redirect unspent Better O Funding” towards increased investment in waters infrastructure or helping to establish the new water entities.

“Staff will be working on a range of information, not dissimilar to the requirements of the previous 'Affordable Waters' plans, which will include but not be limited to, asset condition and capacity, asset management plans, growth analysis, future capital requirements, and delivery options,” Smith said.

“As council has agreed to consider a Regional Collaboration alongside a Wairarapa Collaboration, this suite of data will serve both models.”

SWDC is legally obliged to produce a water services plan, either as part of a Regional Collaboration or a Wairarapa Collaboration by June 30, 2025.

At this week’s Strategy Working Committee, a majority vote passed a motion to reallocate the funds with the condition that any unused money must come back to the community wellbeing fund.

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