Government-led Water Infrastructure Review

Effective water infrastructure is a necessity for a healthy community – it provides clean water to your taps, removes wastewater from homes and businesses, and protects our assets from floods by managing storm water.

It is the often-unseen infrastructure that plays a vital role in the overall health of our community and wellbeing of our environment.

In July 2020, the Government announced a funding package of $761 million to provide Covid-19 stimulus to councils nationwide to maintain and improve Three Waters infrastructure, on the proviso they support further consideration of local government water services delivery arrangements.

The Government funding package is part of a series of actions in response to many councils across NZ struggling to meet the water regulatory framework that was put in place after the Government inquiry into the 2016 campylobacter outbreak in Havelock North that was caused by contamination of the town’s drinking water supply.

Waimakariri District Council, along with all councils nationwide, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government in August 2020, committing it to the first stage of the water reform programme to access an $8m share of the stimulus package.

While the Waimakariri District Three Waters infrastructure is in very good condition, this funding has allowed the Council to further improve fresh and wastewater infrastructure across the District with a lower impact on ratepayers than previously possible.

The MoU with central Government states the Waimakariri District Council is:

  1. Willing to explore different ways of delivering water services - drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater
  2. Willing to share information on our network and services with neighbouring councils and central Government and that we are open to discussions about how we might be able to work together in the future.

The second stage of the Government water reforms proposes councils consider joining together to set up a small number of large entities to deliver water services on a regional or multi-regional scale.

It is important to note that signing the stage one MoU does not commit Waimakariri District Council to anything beyond stage one or to change the way it delivers Three Waters services, and there is an ‘opt out’ clause available.

The earliest a decision on this is likely to be made is mid-to-late 2021 and the timeline will be driven by central Government. Before any decision regarding the second stage is made by Waimakariri District Council we will be seeking to understand how the new entity would be funded, what compensation for Council’s Three Waters assets would look like, the impact this would have financially on rate payers, and how the wider community’s voice and the voice of Te Ngāi Tūāhuriri Rūnanga have been taken into account.

Council expects to engage on the opt out decision in late 2021, and that any decision to participate is likely to be given effect to at some point in the 2023/4 financial year. Regardless of who supplies Three Waters services they will always be needed by the community. Fuller implications of the reform proposal are shown in the assumptions and disclosures section of the full Draft LTP.

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The consultation for the Draft Long Term Plan has now finished. The Council will now consider all feedback as well as holding public hearings and deliberations in May. The Long Term Plan will be adopted by Council in June.

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