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Council opts-out in principle to Three Waters Reform

Friday 1 October 2021

Councillors voted unanimously to opt-out in principle of the Government’s proposed Three Waters Reform at a Council meeting yesterday.

The message to Government is that Tairāwhiti cannot support the proposal in its current form.

Government proposes all 67 Councils around New Zealand have their drinking water, stormwater and wastewater (the three waters) managed across four separate entities to bring economies of scale to water infrastructure and services.

Government has asked for feedback from all Councils by today, Friday October 1.

Tairāwhiti is in Entity C, a group of 21 councils from the East Cape down to the top of the South Island.

Council asked the community for feedback and received 639 survey responses. Of those, 93 percent do not agree with the reforms, and 97 percent say a local voice around water is important to them.

Also raised was the Government’s lack of engagement with iwi partners.

“We as a Council value and have worked hard at these relationships,” says Mayor Rehette Stoltz.

“We acknowledge change is needed in some shape or form. But what is on the table is unacceptable to the people in our region.

”Our community is saying no, we don’t want to lose our local voice and accountability around water.”

Mayor Stoltz says she respects what the Government is trying to achieve, and knows they want good outcomes for the whole country.

“However, one of my concerns, which I have raised with Minister Nanaia Mahuta, is the lack of clarity around what will happen after today.

“It is clear the Government wants change to happen but there has been no indication to date whether this proposed reform could become mandatory.”

Mayor Stoltz reiterated Council is not in charge of the process.

“We are participants in this process.”

Mayor Stoltz says she is happy that conversations with the four Hawke’s Bay Councils around the potential to link up have already been had.

An independent report by Castalia, commissioned by Council, was critical of the reforms. It said the Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS) model was not comparable with New Zealand’s population and density. It was also critical of only two options being presented by Government – opt in or opt out.