Water reform proposals criticised

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The Government’s Three Waters reforms will needlessly complicate present structures, a Gore district councillor says.

The appointed working group’s 47 recommendations to the Government were discussed at a full council meeting last Tuesday.

Cr Cliff Bolger said it was creating unnecessary layers of bureaucracy, when funding was the core issue.

“The assumption by central government is we don’t know what we’re doing.

“We know exactly what needs to be done. We just need the money.

“We’ve got people on the ground; we have our long-term plan; we have our strategic and engineering direction.

“All we need is the funding.

“That will deliver the quickest result for the community.”

He did not think the reforms would make things more efficient and cost-effective, as intended.

Central government was “lifting the bar” in regard to water infrastructure requirements and it was appropriate it was involved, but the proposed model was not the way of doing it, Mr Bolger said.

He wanted to see the council push for its preferred “Waka Kotahi model”, which would result in water infrastructure being funded in a similar way to roading.

In a letter to Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta in September, Mayor Tracy Hicks said the council was “deeply disappointed” such a model did not seem to have been considered.

Councillors unanimously agreed this needed to be reiterated to central government.

Other issues raised included concerns over a lack of voice and voting power and the overall cost of the reforms.

Cr Neville Phillips said it was urgent projects in the pipeline were started before the reforms happened.

“We need to upgrade Mataura’s water supply and plant as soon as possible ..

“If we don’t get it done, we could be waiting a long time.”

Council chief executive Stephen Parry said he was satisfied with most of the working group’s recommendations, but was concerned that recommendations for regional advisory groups, consensus decision making and a 75% majority vote would “strangle and constipate the new structure.”