Whangarei District Council Joins Three Waters Appeal
Mayor Vince Cocurullo has confirmed ‘the fight is not over’ to retain local council ownership of Three Waters assets, after a resolution was made in a confidential meeting in Chambers on Thursday 3 August, for the council to intend to join Timaru and Waimakariri Councils in their appeal of the June 2023 High Court decision.
Mayor Cocurullo is confident this is the right move for Whangārei District ratepayers.
“In July 2020, the Government launched their Three Waters Reform Programme, which proposed that management of three waters assets be transferred out of local government hands and into new entities. To start with, we were able to opt in or out of the reforms, and to help with the decision-making process, our Council commissioned a report from global economic consultants Castalia. The final report was received in late August 2021, and the findings in that report supported Council's decision to opt out of the reforms.”
However, in October 2021, Government announced that Councils could no longer ‘opt out’ of the reforms. Mayor Cocurullo says this is when the situation became uncomfortable.
“In November 2021, we joined with Timaru District Council and Waimakariri District Council to file a High Court application seeking clarification of what ownership means in relation to their ratepayer-funded water assets.
Then, in December 2021, our Council, Kaipara and the Far North District Councils joined ‘Communities 4 Local Democracy’ - He hapori mō te Manapori, a group of 30 councils who banded together to express serious concerns about the Government’s proposed Three Waters reforms.”
“Our frustration lies in the lack of compensation being offered. These assets have been bought and paid for by the residents of our District. We’ve spent more than $120 million on our storm water, wastewater and drinking water assets just in the past 10 years, and our current Three Waters asset register adds up to more than $1.4 billion.
“The future of Whangarei District Council’s Three Waters assets is at stake, and that has a direct impact on our residents. We have a responsibility to continue to protect their investment in our water infrastructure and services, and that’s what the resolution passed today will allow us to do.”
A date for the hearing of the appeal has yet to be set.