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Kapiti News - 2021-07-21

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Long-term funding solution for water reform unknown

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A$2.5 billion support package is an initial salve for ratepayers facing collateral damage from the Government’s Three Waters Reform but a one-off lolly scramble of funding doesn’t address the longer-term burden the proposal has them bearing, Ka¯piti mayor K Gurunathan said. The package, announced on Thursday, aims to support local authorities through the transition process and the financial impacts of the reforms. “While I’m happy to see that the chorus of concerns raised by councils across New Zealand about the equity of this proposal has been heard, and a soothing balm in the form of transitional funding has been offered up, the ratepayer is still very much on the hook for whatever comes next. “Right from the outset, Government acknowledged that the real issue here is funding and while there has been a lot of focus on what the future costs might be, the proposal still offers no solutions that reflect our communities’ ability to pay. “My role is to advocate on behalf of Ka¯piti ratepayers, who have invested heavily and proactively in water infrastructure and services at the cost of many other nice-to-haves. “This proposal would still see them stumping up for a wider solution.” Gurunathan was pleased to hear further information addressing concerns about the proposed ownership model of the new entities and the removal of accountability to local communities would also be forthcoming over the next few weeks. “We continue to support the objectives of this programme — improved safety, quality, environmental performance, and affordability of New Zealand’s three water services. “We want to see the best outcome for New Zealand, for our environment and for our residents. “We acknowledge the challenges ahead and that the costs of delivering water services will climb. “The Government have been very clear that they believe that scale is the solution. We need time to assess the veracity of that. “We will take the next eight weeks to work with our community to understand the proposal and the data informing it before taking a formal position on our next steps. “I’m particularly keen to work with Wellington region mayors to develop a unified position.” Meanwhile, districtwide councillor Jackie Elliott said Westlands mayor Bruce Smith had given a frank analysis on the Government’s Three Waters Reform proposal, the costs to his region and implications of lost public ratepayer-owned assets. “I thank him for being one of the few mayors in the country to go public. “I feel it is time for Ka¯piti Coast District Council to opt out. “I have asked council chief executive Wayne Maxwell when the topic would be coming to the councillor table for discussion and decisionmaking. He could not confirm a date. “Do any of the massive risks to national health quoted as the reason for this blanket approach to future water management apply to Ka¯piti? Like Westland, the answer is no. “Ka¯piti’s reticulated water system has been modernised in 2013, infrastructure has a 30-year life expectancy although I expect water meters will need replacing well before then. After 30 years we will need a dam, but I would build it tomorrow if I could. Will the Government pay for this in future? They’ll neither confirm nor deny. “We have future $250m upgrade costs for stormwater and wastewater infrastructure. Will the Government pay for this? They will neither confirm nor deny. Without this assurance there is no visible benefit to Ka¯piti ratepayers in the Three Waters Reform programme. “Do councillors have a mandate from the public to give away your public assets? No. Has the Government had enough time to answer your and our questions? Yes. “Councils need timely and accurate information to many any decisions and based on the scant information we have had from the Government thus far I say Ka¯piti should signal we withdraw from the Three Waters Reform conversation now.”

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