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Ngāi Tahu Welcomes Three Waters Decision

The government’s reform of three waters will help ensure water services for communities that are safe, high quality, and equitable, while improving outcomes for the environment, says Dr Te Maire Tau, co-chair of Te Kura Taka Pini (the Ngāi Tahu freshwater group).

The reforms, announced by Minister for Local Government Hon. Nanaia Mahuta today, will create a new regional entity to deliver three waters services in an area encompassing much of the South Island, corresponding with natural water catchment areas and the Ngāi Tahu takiwā/boundary. It will be owned by the councils which currently own and manage three waters services, and steered by council and Ngāi Tahu representatives at a high level.

“The geographical boundary is important to South Islanders because it follows the natural catchment areas of the waterways,” Dr Tau said. “It means that the impacts of water infrastructure on the environment of Te Wai Pounamu can be managed for the good of all our interconnected communities in an integrated way that reflects best practice.”

“And as tangata whenua of Te Waipounamu, Ngāi Tahu feel a responsibility to represent the interests of ratepayers and residents in all the council districts in our takiwā, and to ensure these reforms make work for everybody.”

Dr Tau acknowledged the reforms would mean change for some councils, and were not universally supported.

“The government has undertaken significant consultation and Ngāi Tahu have been constructively working with councils on the proposals to date,” Dr Tau said. “This is our opportunity to get it right for our children and grandchildren, and we must put aside politics, and all unite in that effort.”

“It is common ground that the status quo is unsustainable for the health of not only our people, but also our environment and waterways,” Dr Tau said. “Historical underinvestment and an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to crucial infrastructure has led to mass illness, contamination, and literal eruptions of waste in the streets. It has also led to negative impacts on our rivers and streams, particularly in urban areas. These are issues that Ngāi Tahu and councils, and indeed all South Islanders, have a common desire to address.”

“In addition, Ngāi Tahu partnership offers a watertight guarantee against future privatization,” Dr Tau said. “With any change in ownership requiring a 75% vote, Ngāi Tahu’s governance presence ensures that these public assets will never be sold off or control taken out of the South Island.”

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