Council voices strong opposition to Water Services Entities bill

Published: 18 August 2022

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The Ashburton District Council reinforced its strong opposition to the Water Services Entities (WSE) bill at hearings in Christchurch on Tuesday.

Mayor Neil Brown and Council Chief Executive, Hamish Riach addressed the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee of Parliament, speaking to Council’s written submission on the WSE bill. The bill is to establish four publicly owned water entities to provide three waters services in place of local authorities, as part of the Government’s Three Waters Reform Programme.

The Council’s submission raised the community’s concerns with the proposed move to a centralised model for water services, and highlighted the risk that locals would lose their say on how three water services (drinking water, wastewater and stormwater) are provided.

Chief Executive Hamish Riach said the District’s residents had made their thoughts clear on the proposed reform.

“Last year, over 500 people responded to our consultation on the topic and 97% felt it was important for the community to be able to have its say on how three water services are provided.”

Around two thirds of respondents agreed that the continued improvement of health and environmental standards for water was important, which Mr Riach says the Council also strongly supports.

“But people have also shared their fears that urgent issues will not be dealt with in a timely way, and they’re concerned that their voice will be lost on local issues”.

The Council urged the Select Committee to delay the reform process for up to five years to allow time for the new water regulator, Taumata Arawai and councils to work together. It suggested that if changes were still required after this time, then a regionalised review with a greater level of local input and decision making could be considered.

The Council has already committed to meeting the new standards set by Taumata Arawai by making its largest ever investment into drinking water and wastewater upgrades through its Long-Term Plan 2021-31.

Once the Select Committee has finished gathering information, it will prepare a report for MPs to consider before the bill’s second reading, including recommendations for any changes.

The Ashburton District Council’s submission on the bill can be viewed here

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