Rosy national three water reform picture but devil may be in the detail for individual councils
New reports on the economic impacts of aggregating three water services paint a rosy national picture but without localised analysis, the devil for many councils may be in the detail says Kāpiti Coast District Mayor K Gurunathan.
Councillors agreed that the Kāpiti Coast District Council would participate in the initial stage of the programme in August 2020 to ensure a seat at the table with Government and regional partners exploring the local impacts of the proposal.
“We welcome today’s reports, which provide evidence at a national scale of the challenges ahead under current water service arrangements, as a great place to start the conversation,” says Mayor Gurunathan.
“These reports arguably present a compelling case for economies of scale, but we still haven’t seen what the reform proposals mean for individual local authorities and areas which is what we need to progress a more meaningful conversation.
“We had staff working overtime in the lead up to Christmas last year to provide the Three Water Steering Committee with responses to 1400 information requests to inform a localised analysis of the impacts of reform, which was promised to be delivered by March.
“Now we are told we can expect it by mid-year, about the same time Government intends to announce their decisions. We have serious concerns about how any consultation will play out without being given the time and space to adequately understand what this means for us.
“How can we participate in this discussion and properly advocate on behalf our community – which is our job – when we don’t have the full picture?”
Mayor Gurunathan says that while Council continues to support the intent of the reforms and a data and evidence-driven approach to developing solutions, water service delivery is much more complex than may have been anticipated. While working with a small group of leaders from local authorities and iwi has likely been an efficient engagement model, it doesn’t cut the mustard in terms of the engagement required to inform a proposal like this.
“There’s still a number of perspectives that I would expect to see further progress on at this point including partnership with iwi. New Zealand is not Scotland and while there are some impressive sounding numbers in these reports, a copy-paste approach isn’t fit for purpose,” says Mayor Gurunathan.
“Kāpiti has done the hard yards in terms of planning and investing in our three water services, and because of this, we are very well positioned for the future. The root of this problem is, and will continue to be, access to adequate funding and highly constrained operating environments.
“From our own experience, size and scale aren’t automatic fixes. Funding and focus are. At this stage we haven’t yet seen a solution for funding, or any of the detail that would provide focus.”