* Updated to include additional comments from Mayor Allan Sanson on 9 August 2021
Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson has welcomed the release of further information about central government's water reform agenda, including a $2.5+ billion support package for Councils and more detailed information about how a transition would happen, should it go ahead.
“WDC looks forward to continuing to work with central government, Iwi, mana whenua and neighbouring local authorities on the future of three water services, which we know from modelling through our long-term plan are rapidly becoming unaffordable for our communities," said Mayor Sanson.
“Our sector [local government] acknowledges there is a need for change in water delivery nationally, but we have called for meaningful community engagement to test government’s modelled assumptions, to ensure there are checks and balances and to understand this impact alongside other reform like the Future of Local Government.”
“Central government coming to the party with newly announced investment is welcomed, including a minimum of $31 million pledged to support Waikato District Council, but this is about more than money. Understanding the impacts specifically for our community, our environment, our people and our assets – seeing as we’ve already transitioned management of our three waters operation to Watercare Ltd in 2019 – is what comes next for us.”
"We know we have to provide a response to Government by the end of September 2021 about what the issues are for our Council, and we will do that. We also know that we don't have to make a decision about opting in or out just yet. Once we provide feedback to Government, Cabinet will make a decision about the way forward," he said.
Waikato District Council has been working with many other councils across Waikato, the Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, and Manawatu to understand and fully prepare for water reform, should it happen. This is the most complex change in local government for 30 years, and the costs and benefits will not fall evenly at the national, regional and local level.
Waikato District Council will consider all the three water reform package details carefully, including the impacts of Watercare [its current provider] and the Auckland area being part of a different regional waters entity area to the Waikato District. Waikato District Council will continue to advocate for the best outcomes for its community.
The key features of the proposals are that water services would be delivered by four entities. This includes drinking water, wastewater treatment and disposal, and stormwater. The new entities would officially begin operating from 1 July 2024. Local authorities would remain responsible for these services up to that point.