Is the Scottish Three Waters model right for Ōpōtiki?
Central government has given council’s across Aotearoa August and September to carefully consider the current Three Waters Reform proposal and provide feedback on how it might impact the Ōpōtiki community.
Ōpōtiki Mayor, Lyn Riesterer, said that it was a very small window of time, but the more feedback government had from the Ōpōtiki community, the better Council’s response on 1 October.
“The reports from Government have been pretty clear that we don’t need to ‘formally consult’ with our community, but our own policies indicate that we must provide even a short opportunity for our communities to have their say in order to provide honest feedback in our final response.
“I have been fairly transparent throughout this process that I have concerns and collectively, councillors are taking a very careful approach to this reform and some of the figures and rationale that sit behind it.
“That is not to say that there isn’t a need for some sort of reform and careful consideration of the future of waters around the country – we most definitely do. I think there is clear agreement on the formation of an independent water authority and I think that will provide national focus on our services and resilience in the face of climate change and population growth. Some centres are already feeling this pressure and their debt and future spending reflects that challenge.
“In the Ōpōtiki district, we have invested in our infrastructure and we plan to invest more over the next 10 years in a manner our ratepayers can afford. So we are in a good place with our three waters – we have re-lined almost all of our town sewer mains in recent years and upgraded household connections for many. We have good quality and sustainable supply of drinking water in town.
“Many of my concerns are for small communities and single households on private supplies. Ōpōtiki is a little unusual because those connections make up about half of our district and the proposed three water reforms don’t look to make any changes in that space at this stage.
“As a Council, we have been seeking clarity and sent a letter to Minister Mahuta with 50 very clear questions about the information and assumptions sitting behind the figures DIA has released. The Scottish model they have used doesn’t seem to reflect our own reality here in Ōpōtiki.
“I am keen to see these questions answered because I don’t want Ōpōtiki’s inter-generational assets moved to a new (and distant) entity without seeing genuine benefits for our communities. We want to make sure the Ōpōtiki voice will be heard in any future Entity B and that our priorities aren’t overlooked for the many bigger centres that will be sharing the focus and funding.
“It feeds into some of our wider questions and concerns about how this reform links into the other significant changes happening in local government – particularly changes to the RMA and other legislation. I am concerned that taken together, these changes move decision-making out of local hands and centralise it into larger entities or central government in some form. Which is fine if that is the clear intent and it is understood and the public supports it. I do not want to lose that local voice and that local decision-making by stealth.
“We also want to ensure that privatisation is firmly off the cards and that local contracts for maintenance and repair stay local and are not amalgamated into a massive company that can ‘service’ 800,000 other people.
“So if you have a moment over the next couple of weeks, please share your thoughts or questions with Council so that we can pass those on to Government through our report at the end of September.
“We don’t know what any future opportunities to comment might look like at this stage, but even at this very early stage, this is an opportunity to write a few lines and let Council know what you think about the reforms. Don’t forget to also talk to your local MPs and politicians too,” Mayor Riesterer said.
View our regularly updated Three Waters Reform page for further information.
Use our online form to send us your initial feedback.