Water privatisation clause opposed
“We have a saying in Kapiti “He taonga te wai” – our water is precious,” Kāpiti Coast District Mayor told the Parliamentary Select Committee reviewing the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill.
Clause 31 of the Bill proposes extending the period of time a local government organisation may contract out its water services from 13 to 35 years.
“Water has high strategic value. It is fundamental to our daily lives, and our future. It is not a commodity to be just bought and sold,” Mayor Rowan told the committee.
“The management of our water is not something we want to hand over to a private operator, to control by contract. Under this clause, we would effectively disenfranchise a whole generation from any direct control over water service quality and outcomes.
“My Council has established a credible track record of innovation in this area.
“For example, Plan Change 75 requires new homes to have either a 10,000 litre rainwater tank for toilet flushing and outdoor uses, or an alternate rainwater/greywater combination as part of our districtwide move towards sustainability. We are the first Council in New Zealand to require this.
“We have also tapped into an extensive underground aquifer to supplement our river water source in times of drought. We are now looking at cost effective extensions to this supply. The process has involved considerable public consultation and empowerment.
“As a result, there is good public support for the position we have reached. This is a multi-million dollar item.”
Mayor Rowan told the select committee that local government has seen a huge rise in costs resulting from central government policies which are right across the board of Council operations.
One was the high cost of the independent audit of the LTCCP processes which is presently required.
“There are many more.
“For instance it cost my Council $30,000 every two years to re-validate our accreditation for issuing building consents. That doesn’t include our staff time. I understand the time for issuing building consents has been pushed out by 40% because of the extra paper work involved. Those costs must be passed on to those seeking consents.”
Another area is the administration of the rates rebate scheme. The Council administers this process on behalf of the Department of Internal Affairs. Mayor Rowan said it was a worthy policy which many older and less well off ratepayers benefit from, but ratepayers in general wear the process cost, which is considerable.
“These are just three examples. There are many more and this Bill will do little to reduce these costs.
“Instead the Bill seeks to reduce accountability between Council and ratepayers.
“Councils are responsible to their communities and should be free to make decisions affecting them in a form that is appropriate to their different circumstances.
“We believe that a high level of informed and constructive community engagement with decision-making strengthens communities and leads to better and more cost-effective outcome,” Mayor Rowan told the Select Committee.