3 Waters review adopted

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The Gore District Council’s 3 Waters service has notched up a good report card, with only a few changes recommended in a new report.

Council chief executive Steve Parry said the 3 Waters service delivery review undertaken by structured conversations director Alicia McKay had made some recommendations for the council to consider.

Those recommendations were adopted at its Tuesday meeting.

The council had almost $11million of major capital projects planned in the 2015-25 long-term plan for the Waters department, the report said.

“A point that was somewhat of a revelation to me that emerged through the review process was the fact that the council is only one of a small number that continue to deliver 3 Waters services via an in-house council department,” Mr Parry said in a memo to councillors.

The majority of councils contracted out to the private sector.

“I remain of the firm view that in-house service delivery provides the council with invaluable institutional knowledge about its 3 Waters assets that provides continuity and a long-term approach which is not always the case with contracts that have a profit motive and need to be tendered at regular intervals,” he said.

The report concluded a shared service with other councils was not realistic, but there were opportunities for joint procurement and common processes for the services, such as contract management, that could be shared, he said.

Another recommendation was to develop a risk management framework and business continuity plans which could be relied on in an emergency.

This work was already under way, he said.

Another recommendation was to broaden the range of engineering consultants the council used, he said.

The final suggestion was to form a 3 Waters committee, which would include an independent adviser to provide focused and objective thinking to the ambitious 3 Waters capital works programme.

At the meeting, Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks said the review was “pretty” extensive and gave a good insight into the operation of the 3 Waters department.

Mr Parry said the committee could meet possibly twice a year to critique the operation of the department.

He believed staff would be helped by the inclusion of an independent engineering professional.

In the report, Ms McKay said key challenges facing councils in performing their role in the future would include financial pressures of capital renewals, increasing customer and regulatory expectations and information gaps to inform planning.

“Gore District Council is experiencing the effects of each of these challenges,” Ms McKay said.

The uncertainty about the condition of assets, particularly drinking water, was also a challenge for the council.

“This makes effective asset management and renewal planning more difficult.”

About 60% of the wastewater network is combined with stormwater, creating environmental, compliance and customer satisfaction issues.

Long-term affordability issues with a static projected population and increasing regulatory and renewal requirements would be challenges for the council.

“Three waters is a significant activity group for GDC, comprising 18% of total operating and capital expenditure, projected to rise to 23% over the next 10 years,” Ms McKay said.

Shared services with other councils could be established in areas such as project management, contract management and bylaws.