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Three waters: Local or national management?

Mayor SandraHazlehurst

Talking point: Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst

There has been a great deal of discussion over the last few weeks, nationally and locally, about how three waters (drinking water, waste water and storm water) will be managed across New Zealand.

Many of our people ask me where Hastings District Council stands on the national debate over whether our three waters infrastructure should be owned and managed locally, or by one of the four national organisations suggested by central government.

My response is that we need more information and we need to talk to our community before coming to any conclusion.

So what is the government proposal?

It would see four organisations managing all of the three waters infrastructure and maintenance across New Zealand. The current proposal would mean the entity managing three waters in Hawke’s Bay would be looking after water services for 21 council areas, from the top of the East Coast to the top of the South Island.

What is our situation?

Our Council and our community have made safe drinking water our number one priority.

Since the Havelock North water contamination event in 2016, which severely impacted our community, we have worked extremely hard to bring our drinking water infrastructure up to the highest standards possible.

Our district has spent more than $80 million on drinking water infrastructure enhancements, with all of the major projects due to be completed by the end of next year. That means our new drinking water systems will be in top condition across all of our urban and small community supplies.

Our award-winning $35m waste water plant was built just over a decade ago, it has a consent and it operates to these conditions, and we have long-term asset management plans in place to manage waste water and storm water.

So where does that put us in the very important discussion we are having on who will manage water into the future?

As your mayor, I assure you that we will do everything we can to ensure that no change is made without you having the opportunity to let us and the government know what you think.  

In the meantime, Councils across New Zealand have until October 1 to put our questions on the proposal to government and provide feedback.

We still need more information from the Government, after which we will be in a position to talk to our ratepayers and wider community.

We need to understand how our community will retain influence over the service, how the delivery model will work, how we ensure new water infrastructure is installed where and when we need it as our district grows, and the intricacies of the ownership model.

We also need more information on new regulation standards.

Government has signalled that standards will continue to rise, which will impact on the amount we need to spend on infrastructure and therefore the cost to Hastings households and businesses.

Having this information will help us understand how the government proposal will work at a practical level and estimate the likely cost of meeting those standards.

At the moment, government is saying that the proposal is ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’.
That means we have a choice: continue to look after our own three waters, or opt in to the government scheme.

Government has said that it will give us the ‘final shape’ of its proposal in October.

This is a decision that will impact generations to come and we must get this right.

A regional approach

For us, much discussion will be held across the region. The four Hawke’s Bay councils, Central Hawke’s Bay, Hastings, Napier and Wairoa, have agreed to work together to analyse the government’s proposal. That will build on work done last year by the four councils with their iwi representatives, which reviewed future costs of three waters management across Hawke’s Bay.

We agreed at the time we started the regional review that affordability, resilience, capacity and capability were all critical elements. That remains the case today.

We look forward to receiving more information from government, seeing its refined plan in October, and then talking to our community and regional partners about the best way forward.

Sandra Hazlehurst
Mayor of Hastings

25 August 2021

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