Council endorses initial position on Three Waters reform
Council has today endorsed a preliminary position on the Government’s three waters reform that outlines Rotorua Lakes Council's concerns with the proposal as it currently stands.
While the council broadly agrees with the drivers for change and has already adopted infrastructure risk mitigations in its 30-year Infrastructure Strategy, it considers there are fundamental gaps in the current reform proposal that must be addressed in order to strengthen the proposal and to uphold the reform’s underlying core intentions.
The Government proposes transferring three waters asset to four new water services entities (WSE) to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery and has sought feedback from councils.
A paper tabled at today’s Council meeting outlining the council’s preliminary position will be provided as Rotorua Lakes Council’s feedback after being endorsed by elected members.
Council also voted in favour of supporting council officers’ continued involvement in the reform discussions, which are being led by the Department of Internal Affair (DIA).
Councillor Reynold MacPherson voted against.
Council’s Deputy Chief Executive Infrastructure and Environmental Solutions Stavros Michael and Deputy Chief Executive Te Arawa Partnership Gina Rangi gave a presentation outlining the Government’s proposals, the outcome of a’ ‘council impacts assessment’ and concerns about the current Government proposal.
Where RLC sees alignment in the proposal:
- Achieving scale advantage (cost absorption spread across a larger population)
- Rationalisation and Harmonisation of plans/standards
- Leveraging services based income for growth investment
- Critical mass to attract and retain competent staff
- Improved risk focus and consequence intervention protocols
Key aspects of concern:
- The potential loss of our ability to lead and control community outcomes through elected mandate.
- Potential for siloed assets management approach which becomes unresponsive to iwi/community needs.
- Stranded organisational costs difficult to reduce effectively burdening a smaller organization.
- Limitations on ability to design locally influenced solutions.
- Disconnection between city planning and infrastructure planning.
Key issues of the proposal that form RLC’s current position:
- RLC recognises the challenges facing the Three Waters Services, broadly agrees with the rationale of the proposed reforms and has taken an active part in local discussions and workshops to help the formation of viable long term options.
- RLC wants to strongly preserve the role of local elected leadership and decision-making in the alignment of Three Waters’ objectives with the direction and needs that are specific to our community (RLC does not support a one-size-fits-all approach).
What would need to change to alter RLC’s current position:
- Entity required to give effect to community developed Three Waters Strategy for Rotorua District (recognising a place-based, not utility-based, approach).
- Services will meet or exceed the standard of services provided prior to the establishment of the entity.
- Regular performance reporting to Council focused on evidence of achieved network management efficiencies that also align with the council’s broader objectives related to community wellbeing.
Mr Michael noted in his report and during today’s Council meeting that the proposed reforms constitute a major inter-generational change and full and effective community consultation will be required ahead of any decisions Council is required to make. There were no decision points yet, he said.
The report tabled today says if the status quo (ie “council model”) were retained, that would not mean no future change to the delivery or cost of services given the challenges faced including ongoing change in compliance requirements and cost increases.
See the full report that went to Council today in the meeting agenda HERE on Council’s website. Go to p15 of the report to view the three waters report.
See the presentation slides relating to this matter HERE on Council’s website.
Today’s meeting was livestreamed and you can access the recording via Council's YouTube channel HERE
You can find all the detail relating to the Government’s Three Waters Reform Programme HERE on the DIA website (www.dia.govt.nz)