Council worries about Three Waters reforms
Despite working group changes, some fears linger
Arevised governance model for the Three Water entities is now being proposed, as 44 of the 47 working group recommendations have been accepted by the Government, but it still has the Horowhenua District Council concerned. “The Three Waters Reforms are the most significant local government changes facing ratepayers and our community since the 1980s,” said Mayor Bernie Wanden in a media statement. “In September 2021 council provided feedback on the central government’s initial proposal, strongly advocating for a local voice, local ownership and protection against the future privatisation of Three Waters assets. “While it is reassuring to see that some of these issues have been addressed by the Three Waters working group, we still hold concerns that the voice of Horowhenua could get lost in amongst the 20 other councils currently included in Entity C,” Wanden said. “We are committed to delivering the best outcome for our community and have an obligation to ensure we’re prepared and positioned for any transition resulting from the reforms,” said chief executive Monique Davidson. “As we have done in the past, we will continue to invest in and manage our Three Waters assets so that they are fit for purpose, resilient and in a good position regardless of the Three Waters reform.” Wanden also said councillors had voted in February to join the Communities 4 Local Democracy as a council partner. “We joined the group to assure our community that we’d continue to advocate for a greater level of communication so that everyone gets the opportunity to understand the complexity of the topic and have their say on the proposed legislative changes. “We all deserve safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable water services. We take our role as kaitiakitanga of Three Waters, ensuring access to clean drinking water and effective management of stormwater and wastewater, very seriously. “While we all accept that continued investment and improvements are required, it is unfortunate that the reform announcement gives the impression that we have crumbling infrastructure and unsafe drinking water. Let me give our community absolute reassurance that is simply not the case. “We’re proud to be leading the way with land-based wastewater discharges. We are currently working with Horizons Regional Council to convert the last of our wastewater treatment plants to land-based irrigation. “We will have all treated wastewater discharges going to land in a few years’ time. This will alleviate any potential future river water quality compliance issues, and also improve and protect our waterways. “We acknowledge that stormwater management remains an important issue for Horowhenua, both because of increasingly high regulatory standards, and heavier and more frequent rain events as a result of climate change. “While there will always be more work to be done, we are committed to working alongside Horizons Regional Council to improve our stormwater resiliency,” Wanden said. “The Government have set out their policy position and while we certainly don’t agree with all the components of it, our job must turn to ensuring we are advocating for the very best outcomes for Horowhenua,” said Davidson. “We are committed to delivering the best outcome for our community and have an obligation to ensure we’re prepared and positioned for any transition resulting from the reforms. As we have done in the past, we will continue to invest in and manage our Three Waters assets, so that they are fit for purpose, resilient and in a good position regardless of the Three Waters reform.” The reforms, which are due to take effect from mid-2024, will move responsibility for the management of water supply, stormwater and wastewater from 67 councils to four new multi-regional water services entities. The Three Waters working group recommendations include a revised governance model for the water services entities, with councils now included as non-financial shareholders alongside mana whenua. Additional protections against privatisation will also mean at least three-quarters of Parliament would need to agree before any sale or merger could take place. The latter is to allay concerns that demand for Three Waters could be monetised by future governments. Horowhenua District Council provides a safe and reliable water supply to residential, industrial, and commercial properties in Levin, Foxton, Foxton Beach, Tokomaru, Shannon and Mangaore. Over the years various improvements have been made to the Levin water treatment plant. Since the latest upgrade in 2016/17, council has not needed to issue any boil water notices. New Zealand’s new water regulator Taumata Arowai confirmed that in 2021 Horowhenua District Council complied with New Zealand’s drinking water standards, with the exception of a technicality related to Tokomaru’s drinking water, which is being addressed.