Changes coming to Three Waters: Parry

Gore District Council’s chief executive is convinced changes are coming to the Three Waters reforms after conversations with the new Minister of Local Government.

Chief executive Stephen Parry and deputy mayor Keith Hovell attended a Local Government New Zealand rural and provincial sector meeting in Wellington earlier this month.

While the primary focus was on Cyclone Gabrielle, there was also talk about the Three Waters reforms, Mr Parry told assets and infrastructure committee members at their first meeting last Tuesday.

He said a highlight was ‘‘the free and frank exchange of views’’ with Minister of Local Government Kieran McAnulty, who took the place of Nanaia Mahuta in a Cabinet reshuffle in January.

‘‘What I took out of his remarks to the gathering was that there is going to be some changes in the Three Waters policy space.’’

Mr McAnulty did not give many details on what those changes might be, however.

‘‘He was hoping to be in a position to perhaps outline some proposed changes but that wasn’t the case because of the destructive effects of Cyclone Gabrielle,’’ Mr Parry said.

‘‘What he did hint at was that he was looking at changes so that the concerns around loss of a local voice could be meaningfully addressed.

‘‘I think there will be some changes in the current policy setting but whether they go sufficiently far enough to appease those that have strong concerns about what’s being proposed is a moot point.’’

In a report tabled at the committee meeting by general manager of critical services Jason Domigan, he said changes to the policy or a change in government could have significant implications for councils.

Preparations were already under way to transfer ownership and control of every council’s water assets to four new entities by July next year.

‘‘Gore district is part of entity D which includes 22 South Island councils,’’ he said.

While chief executives had been appointed for the other three entities, one was yet to be appointed for entity D.

Mr Domigan understood that would be announced ‘‘in the near future’’.

Later in the meeting, a report tabled by Three Waters operations manager Aaron Green revealed the council’s water treatment plant at Hilbre Ave was not compliant with the standards set by the newly established water services regulator, Taumata Arowai.

He said water compliance reports were a monthly requirement under the new Crown entity.

‘‘We’re not even attempting protozoa compliance [at the Hilbre Ave water treatment plant] because the plant’s not up to it. The Mataura water treatment plant upgrade will bring that in line with the drinking water standards.’’

The $3.5 million upgrade is set to be completed by November, four months behind schedule.