All around New Zealand, a hot topic on many people’s lips is water – and not just rain water. For Central and local governments in particular, this topic is high on the agenda at the moment.

On a national level, after the Havelock North incident, the Government is reviewing how to improve the management of drinking water, stormwater and wastewater (three waters) to better support the country’s health, safety, prosperity and environment. The Government is anticipated to provide high-level direction on its reform work programme this month, with the first recommendations from this work programme expected mid-2019.

As part of this review, Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ, the peak body representing New Zealand’s 78 local, regional and unitary authorities) last week released its position statement on three waters. As drinking water, stormwater and wastewater are all core responsibilities of local councils, this was an important contribution from the perspective of the organisations with experience in these services.

Any reforms to three waters could have big impacts on how these functions are managed and delivered to communities. Through its position statement, LGNZ therefore called on the Government to adopt four good public policy principles ahead of any reforms to the three waters sector. These four principles are: fix drinking water first; let existing regulations run their course; take mandatory aggregation off the table; and incentives matter. As LGNZ President Dave Cull expressed when the position statement was released, “We understand the public’s urgency to see water standards tightened…but we also recognise that making regulatory decisions in a hurry can produce unforeseen and costly consequences down the road.”

On a local level, we expressed support for this direction, and here in the Ashburton District, we are working through the adoption of a Surface Water Strategy, which was open for public consultation throughout October until 4 November. The intention of this document is to detail how we will work with the community and other organisations to make our vision to sustainably manage our surface water resources a reality. Surface water is a broad term that includes things such as lakes, rivers, springs, stormwater and the water race network.

Thank you to everyone who provided feedback on this important strategy, and helping to ensure that we have got it right. We have been conducting the hearings for this consultation this week, and I’d like to extend a thank you to those who have come to speak to Council about this draft document. We anticipate that the final revised document will be adopted next month.

Like many organisations, we will continue to monitor this space with great interest, particularly the three waters review and any developments as it pertains to what it could mean for our district. To read more about the LGNZ position statement on three waters, visit the Council website www.ashburtondc.govt.nz.​

Page reviewed: 29 Nov 2018 4:36pm