Council and local iwi voice opposition to Three Waters’ bill
Ōpōtiki District Council has provided feedback to the Select Committee on the Water Services Entities Bill, with support from Whakatōhea, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui and Ngai Tai, voicing opposition on behalf of the Ōpōtiki community.
The Government is changing the delivery of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater with its Three Waters Reforms. Under this plan, four new publicly-owned Water Services Entities will run New Zealand’s drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services – currently operated by local councils. The bill is currently going through the Select Committee process, including public submissions on the draft legislation.
Ōpōtiki Mayor, Lyn Riesterer, said that the process had been difficult for councils around the country as organisations attempt to make long-term decisions for the best of their communities, but with few options for input.
“There were many assurances early on in the process and very few opportunities for genuine community input into this decision. So we wanted to be crystal clear in our select committee submission how we feel and how our communities feel about this reform.
“Council and iwi together are concerned about this programme of centralisation, removing local decision-making power and watering down our ability to address local issues.
“At its core, the concerns of council and the concerns of iwi are the same – we want to uphold and honour commitments of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Te Mana o te Wai. But under the government’s model, the needs of individual iwi and hāpu will be lost in an amalgamated and centralised bureaucracy,” Mayor Riesterer said.
The submission on the bill notes that the service area that Ōpōtiki District Council would be part of (the Western-Central Water Services Entity), covers an area which includes 22 Territorial Authorities with an estimated 800,000 customers. The population of Ōpōtiki District is 10,300, which would be just 1.3% of the customers within of the Western-Central Water Services Entity.
“There is just no way that a mega-entity will have any concern for 1% of their customer base. We can also imagine a locally-led change in our priorities which would need to be directed through a ‘regional advisory panel’, or on to a ‘regional representative group’ for discussion and then making its way to the board for approval. It will be slow and clunky with very little opportunity for local voice or genuine mana whenua input around that table,” Mayor Riesterer said.
The submission covers a range of concerns with ownership, accountability, governance and appointments, reporting, asset management, funding, and local employment.
You can read the full submission below.