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Mayor Rehette Stoltz on Three Waters Reform

Wednesday 22 September 2021

The Government’s proposal to change the way we manage our water is a very important issue for all of us here in Tairāwhiti and the changes would have a substantial impact on today’s residents and future generations.

What is Three Waters?

Three Waters basically refers to our drinking water, stormwater and wastewater. As a Council, managing our three waters is one of our main activities.

What’s the Government proposing?

The proposal is to establish four publicly-owned water services entities to provide water services. Tairāwhiti has been grouped in Entity C with districts in the eastern and lower North Island including Hawkes Bay, lower parts of the Manawatū-Whanganui and Wellington regions, as well as the local authorities at the top of the South Island.

The Government proposes that these four entities are managed by independent boards, each owning and operating three waters infrastructure on behalf of local Councils.

What’s the timeline for the reforms?

The timetable is tight. Government wants feedback from each council on 1 October. Once this feedback has been analysed, Government will decide the next steps. It’s also a real possibility that the Government might decide to go ahead with these changes without consulting.

What’s Council’s stand on the proposal?

To put it simply, we are very cautious. This is an emerging and changing situation as more information and discussion takes place across the country.

We agree with Government that the status quo isn’t an option, especially if we consider our growth and water initiatives such as Te Mana o te Wai, National Policy Statement Freshwater Management (NPSFM), the repeal of the Resource Management Act. These things mean big changes are needed so that our water services meet the needs of our community and the new regulatory obligations. There are going to be future costs to Council as a water provider, and to our communities at a level we have never had to plan or budget for.

The average ratepayer in our rohe pays $990 per year towards three waters services in their rates. The Government is telling us that without these reforms, by 2051, this will increase to $8690 each per year.  Government proposes that with the reform, the amount would be $1260.

We’re working hard to understand this modelling and we’ve commissioned an independent report to look closely at the impact of the reforms for our people. This report will be available at the end of this month and will give us more clarity on these figures.

With Tairāwhiti grouped with much larger regions like Wellington, we’re very concerned that the voice of our community and our iwi partners will be lost. We’ve seen many times before how smaller regions suffer when services are centralised. We need to make the best decision for everyone in Tairawhiti and we want to know that the needs and voices of our people will be heard.

How can the community learn more and have their say?

On our website we have a list of relevant information on the proposal for the community to learn more. We also encourage people to see the Government's Three Waters website.

To support our feedback to Government, we’re asking the community to complete a short 4-question survey on our website. Although this isn’t formal consultation on the reforms, it will help us understand how comfortable the community is with the proposal.